In the words of Mayor Lonnie J. Norman Sr. :
I was born and raised, along with my younger brothers and sister, in
Manchester. My parents were the late Jim and Matilda Norman. I was married
to Mildred Pryor Norman and we had four children: Virginia (1955-2004),
Deborah, Priscilla, and Lonnie, Jr., and two granddaughters: Brandi Sails
(1982-2014), Charles Kilcrease Jr., and Kandi Guest. Mildred passed away in
I, along with the fellow Board of Aldermen, city staff and the community,
have worked through challenging times to keep Manchester moving forward. It
is an honor to serve as the Mayor of the City of Manchester. I have been
actively involved in the community all my life. I was raised to be of help
to others and to treat everyone the same. The life lessons my parents
taught me have been my guide in everything I do. As a lifelong resident of
Manchester, TN, my commitment and dedication to the city remained constant.
I want Manchester to continue to be a place where everyone feels welcome.
Manchester is at its best when everyone works together for the greater good
of the community.
Mayor Lonnie J. Norman Sr. passed away in the early morning hours on Monday, October 12, 2020 due to COVID-19. COVID-19 is real and it took our beloved from us. To Mayor Norman’s fellow public officials, we say please remember your duty to keep the public safe. To our fellow citizens, we say please wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and protect public health and each other.
Lonnie Norman was born in Manchester, TN on March 28,1941 to the late Jim and Matilda Norman. A few years later his brothers Oscar Ray and Carl David were born. The boys would not hold court for long by themselves because in 1946, his sister, Zeda (Mae), was born and through the years she became the nurturer of her brothers. As a little boy, Lonnie and his siblings spent a lot of time with their grandparents and numerous cousins in Hillsboro, TN. The stories of learning how to swim in the creek with his father, his siblings, cousins, aunts and uncle, meeting at Ma and Pa’s until the storm passes, and tales of endless summer days are legendary. This is how and where Lonnie’s foundation of the importance of family and building meaningful relationships were formed. Nothing was more important to Lonnie than his family. If you were his friend, that simply meant you were family too.
Lonnie graduated from the segregated Davidson Academy High School in 1959. While he was proud to be a Davidson Academy Tiger and loved “His Purple & Gold,” he dreamed of playing football for his hometown Red Raiders. Although Lonnie wasn’t allowed to play for his hometown team, his younger brother, Carl, went on to dawn the “Red & Black” and was a member of the first desegregated class of Manchester High School.
As Lonnie grew into a young man, he started working for a gentleman who would become a second father to him, J. D. Ring. When Lonnie started his own family, J. D. would come to the hospital demanding to see his grandchildren, which oftentimes confused the nurses because J. D.’s skin color was different from Lonnie’s. A testament to what defined family for Lonnie, love.
Lonnie went on to play a critical role in race relations in southern Middle Tennessee. He started out as a laborer at Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC), and retired as a Test Area Manager overseeing several sophisticated testing operations, after 40 years of service with the company. During that time, he was instrumental in critical union negotiations and desegregating the workforce. Lonnie’s work experience at AEDC provided him with leadership skills, vision, and the ability to make sound business decisions. These skills, along with his compassionate and empathetic personality, produced the leader that many of you know today.
It is said that when your work speaks for itself—let it.
Lonnie entered public office in 1984 serving as Alderman from 1984-1991. He also served as Vice Mayor for three administrations. In August of 1991, Lonnie became the first black Mayor of Manchester, TN. Lonnie was reelected as Mayor in 2012 and served as Mayor until his passing. His friends and neighbors returned him to the Mayor’s office four times—an act of trust for which he was immensely grateful. Lonnie committed himself to over 30 years of dedicated service to the people of Manchester. In August of 2020, “The Mayor” ran his final political campaign. Closing the book on a political career having never lost a race.
Lonnie was a dedicated advocate for the community overseeing the development of a new recreation complex, soccer complex, improvements to countless parks, supporting small businesses with his “buy local” mentality, revitalizing downtown Manchester, other infrastructure, and support for our beloved Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival were among his proudest accomplishments. Lonnie fought hard against rural hospital closures, to ensure Coffee County citizens could access quality, affordable health care.
Lonnie currently held position on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Duck River Development Agency (appointed by Governor Haslam in 2011 and reappointed by Governor Lee in 2019); Tennessee Municipal League Board of Directors; Coffee County E-911 Board of Directors; Advisory Board for the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, a division of the Tennessee Department of Human Services; member of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce; and served on the nomination committee for Duck River Electric. He also served on steering committees for Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign and former United States Congressman Harold Ford Jr.’s 2006 Senate campaign. Lonnie was a member of Main Street Church of Christ located in Manchester. Lonnie would often say to his children, “it doesn’t matter what title may someday come before or after your name, what people will remember is how you treat them. So, simply be kind.”
Mayor Lonnie Norman’s eight decades on this earth were filled with work that testifies to his love of family, friends, and his beloved hometown, his leadership, his accomplishments, his values and his character.
Without question Lonnie Norman’s greatest accomplishments were as father to Virginia, Deborah, Priscilla, and Lonnie, Jr. and grandfather to Kandi Guest, Brandi Sails, and Charles Kilcrease Jr. He also leaves to cherish his brother Carl (Shirley) Norman, sister Zeda (Willie) Brantley, niece Christina (Jonathan) Norman Young, nephews Carl David (Mandy) Norman Jr., Carl Martin, and James Edward Pryor Sr. and a host of great nieces, great nephews, cousins and friends.
The entire family wishes to thank the people of Manchester, Coffee County, State of Tennessee, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and fellow Bonnaroovians from all over the world for your support during this difficult time. Even with sadden hearts, we hold tight to Lonnie’s favorite quote: “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” We as a family appreciate all of the calls, texts, prayers, and well wishes. We ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days ahead.
The family will receive friends on Saturday, October 17th, 2020, at the
Rotary Park Amphitheater from 1pm until 4pm. Services will be conducted at
the Rotary Park on Sunday, October 18th, 2020, at 1pm. Burial will follow
in the Cypress Garden Cemetery in Manchester.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research
Hospital and the Bonnaroo Works Fund.