by YES! Staff

‘Poor Ellen Smith’ in song, print and blog

The story of “Poor Ellen Smith” and her convicted and hanged killer, Peter De- Graff, travels across the ages, from Randy Furches, a regional sales director, DeGraff descendent and songwriter, who added a verse to the traditional folk song and played it at the Garage. DeGraff’s was reportedly the last public hanging in Winston-Salem. The Winston-Salem Journal recounted the story on Tkdate, and Dan Barry of The New York Times followed suit on Monday. Adding to the chain of telling, we would be remiss to not note that Ed Cone brought the stories to our attention on his blog — he and Garage owner Richard Emmett, in an e-mail blast. The Garage’s stage is splashed across the Old Gray Lady’s page — better public relations than almost any marketing account could buy. A song, of course, is the best way to memorialize an event, but the Times writer strings some purty words together himself: “One hundred fifteen years ago this month, on open land now occupied by warehouses and office buildings, a bantam of a man mounted the gallows built in his dishonor. He raised his hat and bowed before the 6,000 people gathered to see the floor beneath him drop. He carried a small Bible.” And then we learn through Barry’s tale how DeGraff shot Smith “through the heart, his gun so close that its powder singed the outfit she had chosen for what she thought would be a romantic reconciliation. How she was not yet 20.” — JG

Omnibus hits the vitrual road

It is with much respect and admiration that we announce the departure of columnist Ogi Overman from the Voices section of YES! Weekly. The column has run in some form since 1984, and it became Omnibus in 1988, when Overman was editor in chief of ESP magazine. “It wasn’t called Omnibus in 1988,” Overman recalls, “and strangely enough it was about Kay Yow and her little sister Debbie, who was a dear friend of mine at East Carolina [University]. Now she’s athletic director at University of Maryland.” YES! Weekly picked up the column in 2005, just a few months after we started — the same day, in fact, that Overman announced his paper The Greater Greensboro Observer was folding. He will continue as edito of the Jamestown News, where he was been since 2006. Overman says he wants to keep the column alive in blog format — Ogi’s Online Omnibus will be available at — and he anticipates many hits from his loyal readers, which he’s dubbed the Sizzling Seventeen because, he says, he knows of 17 people who regularly read his words. “I just feel it’s time to be more of an online presence,” he said. “As much as I love print, it’s time to realize the inevitable. “My goal in the coming year is to expand the Sizzling Seventeen and try to break that elusive twenty barrier.” He says he’ll call them the Transformational Twenty. —BC