Alabama A&M celebrates homecoming week, A17 | Law & Order, A14 | Obituaries, A16 | Intersections, A15

Take a ride

Bicycles will be cruising the streets of downtown and old Huntsville this weekend. A Vintage & Cruiser Bicycle Ride is set for today at 2:30 p.m. Those who want to participate should meet in front of Huntsville Middle School on Adams Street by 2:15. The ride will be “conversationally paced” and will be through the downtown and historic area and around Big Spring before stopping for malts at Sonic. Families are welcome and helmets are required. For information, email nolenclark@mindspring.com.

Local&State
Program puts focus on internal medicine
Joint training effort may reverse doctor shortage
By STEVE DOYLE
Times Staff Writer steve.doyle@htimes.com

The Huntsville Times | Sunday, September 23, 2007

A13

Road Watch
Traffic is reduced to one lane eastbound on Monroe Street near the Chamber of Commerce.

Governors Drive
Saint Clair Ave.

A cure is in the works for a critical shortage of internal medicine doctors in Huntsville. Officials from Huntsville Hospital and the University of

Alabama at Birmingham are working together to launch a new internal medicine residency training program at UAB’s regional medical campus on Governors Drive. Dr. Robert Centor, dean of UAB’s Huntsville campus, said the three-year program could admit its first residents as soon as July 2009. It would be tailored for medical school graduates who want to work

as internists – doctors who specialize in adult internal medicine. “We’re doing all the planning with the assumption that we will figure out a way to get the funding,” Centor said. UAB’s Huntsville campus now offers a three-year famBryan Bacon/Huntsville Times ily practice residency for 36 Dr. Nancy Blevins of the University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty watches as first-year intern James Morrison examines Please see MEDICINE on A17 a patient at the Huntsville clinic.

Governors Dr.
kway ial Par mor Me
Harvard Rd.

Eastbound lane closed

e allac Bob W

Ave.

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Huntsville Times

The right-hand, eastbound lane is closed from Harvard Road to Montgomery Street through Oct. 15. To view Governors traffic, visit www.al.com/traffic.

Aggressive dogs often vulnerable at the end
Poor care and neglect breed trouble, and then pit bulls become victims
By NIKI DOYLE
Times Staff Writer niki.doyle@htimes.com

Schools may try to shed the feds
Board members look at pros, cons if step is taken
By CHALLEN STEPHENS
Times Staff Writer challen.stephens@htimes.com

Gallatin St.

Champ search
A weeklong competition begins near Priceville to see who has the 2007 World Grand Champion among 700 or so racking horses brought from 14 states to Celebration Arena. But it’s not all about horses. A15

Got ethics?
A committee says all employees at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and especially its top staff, should have annual mandatory ethics training. A14

Ditto driver

What happened in the case of the driver who plowed into three parked cars July 4 at Ditto Landing? A14

Helping hand
Pat McMillion is a retired teacher spearheading efforts to bring a one-room schoolhouse to Burritt on the Mountain. A14

SUV death

An autopsy is planned on an 8-month-old girl found dead in her father’s SUV in Mobile. Phong Tran, 27, of Mobile unintentionally left Kaleen Tran in his Dodge Durango after dropping off his two other children Thursday morning at Little Flower Catholic School, said police spokesman Officer Eric Gallichant. Tran realized that his daughter was still in the SUV when he returned to Little Flower at 5:45 p.m. Thursday to pick up his children from afterschool care, Gallichant said.

No. 24 doesn’t have a name. The black and white pit bull dog doesn’t have a collar or any sort of ID. She’s one of six pit bulls that the Huntsville Animal Shelter typically receives each day, and she’s one of the six that will be euthanized if her owner doesn’t claim her. The mangy pit bull, with her one icy blue eye and one brown eye, won’t even let shelter workers touch her. Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard, director of Huntsville Animal Services, has tried. She has watched the black and white pit bull recoil when her cage clicks open. Sheppard said she’s tired of seeing these dogs, who will be euthanized in a week if they aren’t claimed, come into the shelter with ticks and fleas, mange, worms - or worse. It’s a pattern that Sheppard has seen emerging in the pit bulls that come through the shelter. The traits that make these dogs so valuable – their strength, tenacity and reputation as “tough dogs” – also make them victims. People tire of them after a while. Then they discard them. “They’re doing it for fun,” Sheppard said as she closed No. 24’s cage, one of seven cages that day holding neglected pit bulls. “It’s such an evil thing to do. Humans are so amazing, but when you hear about this kind of thing, it makes you so cynical.”

Bryan Bacon/Huntsville Times

Officer Virgie Graham of Huntsville Animal Services picks up a pit bull off Glasgow Road in north Huntsville to take it to the local shelter to wait for its owner to claim the dog.

One of many
No. 24, a pit bull that obviously was used for breeding, just showed up at the shelter. There’s no way for shelter workers to tell if she was stolen, if she ran away or if someone simply dropped her off. Animal Services policy generally doesn’t allow the adoption of pit bulls because of the breed’s reputation as unpredictable and potentially aggressive dogs. With adult pit bulls, it’s hard to know

for sure how they were raised and what kind of temperament they have developed, Sheppard said. “If they do – for whatever reason – decide to display aggression, the difference of a bite between a Chihuahua and a 50pound pit bull is enormous,” she said. “People are still a bit intimidated sometimes by adopting them.” The shelter has limited slots for adoptable dogs, and workers have to choose the most likely to go to a good home, she said. The policy is also a safeguard for a city that doesn’t want to be held liable for a dog that injures someone, and for a shelter that doesn’t want to take the chance of adopting a dog that could hurt someone. Even more so, Sheppard said, she doesn’t want to see a pit bull fall into the hands of an owner who wants the dog for the wrong reason. Sheppard wasn’t

director when the policy was developed, but she understands its intent. “It’s so easy to say it’s policy,” Sheppard said, “but very infrequently is a policy created for one particular reason.”

The number problem
Are pit bulls inherently vicious? It depends on whom you ask. Statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 60 percent of dog-bite fatalities were caused by pit-bull types and Rottweilers. The CDC data span 20 years of dogbite reports from 1979 to 1998, but the center didn’t intend for its numbers to be used as the basis for breed-specific legislation. According to the report, the data could show a strong bias because bites by certain breeds – pit bulls, Dobermans and Rottweilers – are more likely to be Please see DOGS on A19

In an effort to emerge from its civil rights past, Huntsville City Schools is taking the first steps to shed a 37-year-old federal desegregation order. “It is going to be painful, and it is going to be disruptive,” attorney J.R. Brooks told the city school board Thursday night, warning that the board could be forced to transfer many teachers and redraw school zone lines. Some board members see a reward in no J.R. Brooks is longer being the attorney required to ask for the city the Depart- school sysment of Jus- tem. tice and the NAACP for approval of where they want to build schools. The first questions from the Justice Department could arrive in the next few days, Brooks told the board. “So the process begins.” He said a majority of the board has indicated that it is interested in pursuing the matter. But there has been no vote of the school board, no formal action and no public commitment. “I would say that the board hasn’t voted on anything,” board President Doug Martinson Jr. said Friday. “We have not authorized the board attorney to do anything. The

Please see SCHOOLS on A17

Babs didn’t wait on opportunity, created own
“Martha Fleming ote: Thanks to used to ride her horse Christine up from their farm,” Richard for her Roper’s niece, Beth research on the Carter, remembered life of Babs Roper. Friday. She was referChristine, if you recogring to another of nize some of your own Huntsville’s storied prewords, it’s because they boom families. were better than mine. LEE When people talk From a tiny apartROOP about Nolan and Babs ment over a flower Columnist Roper, the phrase shop to one of our “hard-working” comes biggest homes, Frances “Babs” Roper’s life was a great up early. “They were the workingest Huntsville story. Could it have people I’ve ever known,” longhappened anywhere? If you time friend Nell Lackey said knew her, you wouldn’t bet against it, but it suits this city Friday. “Driven,” said another old like baby’s breath suits a friend. dozen roses. After years of seven-day When Nolan Roper brought his young bride here weeks, the shop was turning a in 1938, Huntsville was a tex- profit, and in 1949 the Ropers bought a piece of land. It was tile mill town of 13,000 people. Whitesburg Drive, where the 7-acre “Old Cramer Place” Ellen Hudson/Huntsville Times their florist shop opened that on Franklin Street at Big Cove Frances “Babs” Roper had lived year, was a gravel road. Road. in Huntsville since 1938.

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The tract came with a landmark home the couple restored, and they turned its fields into giant nurseries. It’s said those colorful fields were on many people’s route for a Sunday drive. If the land had a past, it also had a future. It wasn’t through making history. Humana Corp. wanted to open a for-profit hospital here to compete with Huntsville Hospital, and it wanted the Ropers’ land to do it. The corporation paid the couple $1 million for the land in 1968. At the time, it was a record price for a single piece of property in Huntsville. But Nolan Roper wasn’t just a guy with a green thumb. He took a seat on the board of what would be Medical Center hospital. Later, Roper would help start a bank in town known

as the Bank of Huntsville. When it was bought by Colonial Bankgroup, Roper got a seat on that board, too. Meanwhile, the couple were quietly buying other property. Office complexes and apartment buildings joined their holdings. Babs Roper took her husband’s seat on the bank board when he died in 1981 and became the first woman to sit on the board of Colonial Bankgroup of Alabama. It didn’t take the bankers long to learn that she was as savvy as her husband. Well into her 80s, Babs Roper still worked at the flower shop. She enjoyed her Orange Beach condominium, traveled widely and quietly supported a host of local charities and institutions. Please see ROOP on A17

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