By Bill Brewer
In revealing its selection, the MLK Commission cited Monsignor Mankel’s work with the commission and the Knoxville community through the years.
“On behalf of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission, we would like to share in our collective decision of honoring you as our 2017 MLK Chair’s Award recipient. The Chair’s Award is provided to individuals whose life’s work exemplifies that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In your assignment as monsignor of the Diocese of Knoxville, you have remained steadfast in voicing your support of justice and equality for all citizens. Through service as the former principal of Knoxville Catholic High School and superintendent of Catholic schools, we recognize your concentrated efforts to provide resources and opportunities to our future leaders,” the MLK Commission said.
The award was presented Jan. 16 during the commission’s annual memorial tribute program at Greater Warner Tabernacle AME Zion Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Knoxville. Monsignor Patrick Garrity, diocesan vicar for priests and pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Farragut, accepted the award for Monsignor Mankel, who was unable to attend.
Clarence Vaughn III, who chairs the MLK Commission, emphasized that the Chair’s Award is presented to an individual whose life’s work exemplifies Dr. King.
“We want to focus on individuals who really shine the light on justice and equality. Since serving as vicar general, historical archivist, and a consultor for the Diocese of Knoxville, Monsignor Mankel has remained steadfast in supporting equal rights and justice for all citizens,” Mr. Vaughn said. “Through his tireless efforts in serving the youth and adult citizens of Knoxville, he has remained focused on bridging the gap between all citizens.”
Mr. Vaughn added that Monsignor Mankel has served on the MLK Commission and is a partner in the interfaith prayer service the commission is involved in.
Monsignor Mankel said he is grateful and very appreciative to be selected as the 2017 recipient of the Chair’s Award in recognition of Dr. King and his civil rights ministry. He noted that outside of Atlanta, Knoxville’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the largest in the country.
The monsignor also said he has worked, as a representative of the diocese, with the MLK Commission for 20 years and also has worked to establish good, solid relations between the diocese and the African American community in Knoxville.
“Doing this work, I have met a lot of fine people who have been interested in civil rights,” Monsignor Mankel said. “I believe in it. It has been good for the Church.”
In accepting the award during the commemoration service, Monsignor Garrity described Monsignor Mankel as a mentor and friend.
“This is an honor and I am humbled to be here representing my good friend and mentor Monsignor Mankel. He is truly a man of Knoxville and a man of this community,” Monsignor Garrity said, noting that he and Monsignor Mankel served as principal of Knoxville Catholic High School.
“He’s been a great mentor and a great friend to me for over 40 years. In his name I thank you and I thank the commission for honoring his work and his love of this community in Knoxville,” Monsignor Garrity added.
The MLK Commission is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that works to reaffirm and reflect upon the ideals of freedom, justice, and peace. It works inclusively with community partners to lift and live the principals of non-violence, equality, and love as well as to tell the stories of struggles and provide education and leadership training for adults and youth.
Some 500 people attended the program at Greater Warner Tabernacle AME Zion Church.
Also recognized during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service was Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, a Diocese of Knoxville parishioner, who received the MLK Commission’s Community Service Award. Luther Bradley, a retired Knoxville Fire Department deputy chief and fire marshal, received the MLK Commission’s Distinguished Service Award.
Chief Rausch and Deputy Chief Bradley said they were honored to be recognized with the awards.
“I’m honored and humbled to receive this award, especially in this day and age as we see what’s going on around our country with the divisiveness and turmoil. I think it’s vital that we shine a light here on Knoxville. I’m proud of this community. I’m proud to serve this community,” said Chief Rausch, who was greeted with applause when he accepted the award. “It’s an honor to serve this community, and this award is an affirmation to me that we’re doing the right thing. We will continue every day, with every opportunity I have, to assure that our department is working closely with this community to assure justice regardless of who sits in the White House. That doesn’t matter in our house. We will continue to do what’s right, and we will be a light to this nation.” ■