Roger A. "Sonny" Knight Jr.

Posted 7/7/20

ROGER A. “SONNY” KNIGHT, JR., 78, passed away in the comfort of his home during the morning of Friday, July 3, 2020. Texas has lost a true original.

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Roger A. "Sonny" Knight Jr.

Posted

ROGER A. “SONNY” KNIGHT, JR., 78, passed away in the comfort of his home during the morning of Friday, July 3, 2020. Texas has lost a true original.

In the words of a close friend, “If Sonny was your friend, you had a friend for life…and Sonny had lots of friends.” Sonny loved hard and unconditionally. His love for his family was the deepest love of all, a love they all relied on and a love they each returned.

Sonny was a son and husband, father and grandfather, lawyer and leader, best friend and mentor, athlete and coach, educator and intellectual, Civil War historian and history buff, horseman and rancher, provider and protector, problem solver and advice giver. He was a life-long Democrat and Texas Longhorn. He loved animals, music, and classic movies.

Sonny was larger than life. When he walked into a room, you knew by the sound of his footsteps, and by all accounts, the room changed – Sonny had arrived. Sonny could tell a story like no other. When he talked, you wanted to listen. The graveled tenor of his voice was as memorable as the entertaining stories he told. To all who knew and loved him, “Sonny was truly one of a kind.”

Sonny was born on September 21, 1941, at the Heath Clinic in Madisonville, Texas. Madison County was eventually home base for his storied and unmatched career as a trial lawyer, from 1965 to 2020. At the age of 23, Sonny first practiced law with his father and years later with his son, Kevin Roger Knight, and also his daughter, Laurie Louise Knight. The family legacy in law brought him great pride. Younger daughters, Sonnye Alexandra Knight and Griffin Morgan Knight, are law school graduates, as well.

Sonny was a force of nature in cowboy boots in the courtroom, with a strong commitment to those he represented. He was also a fighter in life, with a strong conviction to his beliefs. He was driven to win; he was driven even harder not to lose. May 17, 2020 marked his 55th anniversary as a lawyer.

Sonny was the only child of Roger A. Knight, Sr. and Mary Louise Griffin Knight. His father was a practicing attorney from 1946 until his death and served in the Texas House of Representatives for two terms (1941-1945) as well as the Texas Senate (1945-1949). Louise Knight held a Master’s Degree in English and taught Senior English at Madisonville High School for many years. She also taught at Sam Houston State University, where Dan Rather was her student.

Growing up, Sonny was influenced by his father’s legacy of law and politics and carried on his mother’s intellectual curiosity and love for reading history, literature, and the Bible. Sonny was whip smart, and Louise made sure everyone knew it.

Sonny was proud to be a member of the only Madisonville High School football team in history to make it to the state quarterfinals. After graduating high school in 1959, Sonny attended the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He attended law school at the University of Houston College of Law, in Houston, Texas, where he was a member of the Houston Law Review and the Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity.

Education and learning came easily for Sonny. As he often loved to remind his family, Sonny only held a high school degree: he had been granted early admission to law school before completing college, and he successfully passed the Texas State Bar during his second year of law school.

In 1968, Sonny was elected to the first of two terms as County Attorney of Madison County. He received the high honor of admission to the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) in 1995 and was honored by the Texas State Bar in 2015 for his 50th year of service as a member of the Texas legal community. In 2018, he received the Seventh Amendment Warrior Award from the Houston Chapter of ABOTA, where he was recognized for his tenured career and legal accomplishments. The ABOTA recognition and the lawyers in attendance on that occasion brought him great joy and filled him with a sense of pride.

Sonny was equally well-known in the American Quarter Horse racing community, where he had immediate success with his mare, Femme, who produced two Grade 1 Stakes World Champions in the same year. He bred a total of three American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Champion runners. Sonny launched his impressive ownership and breeding career in 1983 with Stars in Her Crown, his first horse and winner of the Leo Handicap; followed by AQHA World Champion Deceptively, winner of both the 1992 Kansas Futurity and Rainbow Futurity, making her the first filly to win the first two legs at that time of quarter horse racing’s pinnacle Triple Crown. Next to come was AQHA World Champion Femmes Frolic, winner of the 1992 All American Derby and the World Champion Quarter Horse Classic. Sonny solidified his reputation as a breeder with the 1993 dominance of two-year-old AQHA World Champion Treacherously, winner of the Ruidoso Quarter Horse Futurity and Rainbow Futurity, the first two races of the quarter horse Triple Crown during that time.

Horseracing was a natural fit for Sonny’s personality – flashy and flamboyant, fast and exciting, filled with color and pageantry, a bit unpredictable. He loved the strategy, the excitement, the horses, the competition. He loved gathering his family and his most beloved friends to head to Ruidoso or beyond for the races. He made it a party, time after time. Again, he was driven to win; even more, he was driven not to lose.

He loved the bugles sounding the “call to the post.” He loved the kicking of the gates and the brightly colored jockey silks. As the story goes, Sonny’s original jockey silks were black and white. During a particularly important race, the finish was a blur and the winning jockey was wearing similarly colored silks. Sonny mistakenly believed his horse had won. When he came to the realization that the winner was in fact a different horse, he was most unhappy. From that point forward, his silks were the brightest shade of neon pink on the field. Sonny never blended in – so his horses would not, either. Problem solved; he was happy. When Sonny was happy, everyone was happy.

Sonny was proud to be a life-long resident of Madisonville and was dedicated throughout his lifetime to the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association (MSCA), the oldest continuously operating non-profit organization in Texas. In 1941, Sonny’s father passed a resolution in the Texas House recognizing the MSCA bylaws. Sonny served as the MSCA President in 1978-79 and was honored for his service to the MSCA in 1998 and 2013. He was a primary benefactor of the construction of the MSCA Pavilion in 2002.

Sonny was named by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce as Man of the Year in 1990. He served as President and Chairman of the Madison County Historical Commission from 1995 until his death. He purchased and then donated the “old bank building” to the Historical Commission to be used as the museum. He was a leader in the community for over 30 years for scholarship endowments to graduates from Madisonville High through the Louise Knight Scholarship Foundation. His reputation for generosity was well known, as was his support for those who needed a helping hand. He was a primary benefactor of the Harvest of Love Christmas charity and you could always count on Sonny to support Madison County’s youth. He regularly donated steers for the MSCA kids and during the county fair, he showed up to purchase livestock that did, and did not, make the show. Sonny was also a lifelong member of the First Baptist Church and relied on his faith throughout his life.

Sonny was preceded in death by his father, Roger A. Knight, Sr., and his mother, Mary Louise Griffin Knight, as well as his paternal grandparents, Arthur Knight and Lula Morgan Knight, of the Mecca community; his maternal grandparents, James Coleman Griffin and Annie Beulah Simpson Griffin, of Palestine, Texas; his uncle, John Thomas Knight, of Madisonville, Texas; and aunt, Norene McGaughey of Houston, Texas. Sonny is survived by his wife, Angela Dawn Knight; son, Kevin Roger Knight and his wife Risse; daughter, Laurie Louise Knight; daughter, Sonnye Alexandra Knight; and daughter, Griffin Morgan Knight. Sonny is also survived by his three granddaughters, Mary Alex Knight Mizell and her husband Carter; Meredith Anne Knight; and Melanie Alison Knight. Sonny is also survived by his former wife, Gail Smith Stillwell and her husband, Bobby. His family would like to give special thanks to caregivers Shannon McDonald and Ashley Frost.

Funeral services will be held at 1:00 pm sharp on Thursday, July 9, 2020, at the First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Texas, located at 300 South Elm Street. Masks will be provided and social distancing protocols will be implemented. The service will be streamed live and can be viewed at https://livestream.com/madisonvillefbc. You can also view by following the Facebook account of Madisonville First Baptist Church. A brief burial service will take place at the Madisonville Cemetery.

Pallbearers include Mike Baker, Bill Bennett, Butch Bennett, Ernest Cannon, Joe Lloyd Cannon, Buddy Chambless, Fred Davis, Nelson Drake, Mike Farris, David Hammit, W.R. Hensarling, The Honorable Judge Bill McAdams, Butch McDaniel, Kenneth Richie, Bennie Rush, The Honorable

Judge Jerry Sandel, Joel Shaw, Duane Standley, Janis Stewart, Billy Tinsley, Dave Ward, and Bobby Wise.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following: The Madison County Museum at P.O. Box 61; Madisonville, Texas 77864; The MSCA Building Fund at P.O. Box 1197; Madisonville, Texas 77864; The Madisonville Cemetery Association at www.madisonvillecemetery.com/donate; or Rufus Refuge at www.rufusrefuge.org.

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