“Sonny” Knight 1941-2020

Prominent resident passes at home Friday morning

Posted 7/7/20

Roger “Sonny” Knight Jr., one of Madisonville’s most prominent citizens known for his civic involvement and philanthropy, passed away Friday morning following a six-month battle with a rare bacterial infection. He was 78.

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“Sonny” Knight 1941-2020

Prominent resident passes at home Friday morning

Posted

Roger “Sonny” Knight Jr., one of Madisonville’s most prominent citizens known for his civic involvement and philanthropy, passed away Friday morning following a six-month battle with a rare bacterial infection. He was 78.

“I am most proud of the person he was,” said Dawn Knight, his wife of 42 years. “God had blessed him financially and he wanted to give back. He wanted to give back to the community, he wanted to help families and children in need.”

Knight, born in Madisonville in 1941 to Roger Knight Sr. and Mary Louise Griffin Knight, was a distinguished attorney who practiced law for 55 years (1965-2020), including two terms as County Attorney. He began his legal career practicing alongside his father and would ultimately do the same with his children.

He was a proud graduate of Madisonville High School, the only institution from which he received a degree, since he was accepted into law school before completing his college requirements at the University of Texas and later passed the Texas State Bar exam before completing law school at the University of Houston.

“Two or three days before he died, he was singing ‘Dear Old Madisonville High School’, the MHS school song,” said Dawn Knight. “He loved his high school years and he loved this community. He was so proud to be from Madisonville.”

The celebrated attorney and son of Madisonville had his foot in many camps and generously supported countless county organizations and projects throughout his life. As an ardent history enthusiast, he helped establish the Madison County Historical Society and donated the building that houses the Madison County Museum.

He was also an adamant supporter of the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association. During his stint as president from 1978-79, Knight showcased his drive for equality and inclusion by opening the annual MSCA Steak Dinner to all individuals.

“He was president when they started allowing women to attend the steak dinner,” said Dawn Knight. “It was always just for men. He did get a lot of flack for that, but it was just Sonny’s nature to be outside the box. He was a little more forward thinking in some ways and a diehard Democrat from day one.”

Knight was one of the primary benefactors of the MSCA Pavilion construction in 2002.

Among his countless philanthropic endeavors included the “Harvest of Love”, which he pioneered with fellow attorney Ernest Cannon. The elaborate event, which included various volunteers from the community, sought to ensure every child in Madison County received gifts for Christmas.

“There were these elaborate meetings and they had committees in charge of everything,” said Dawn Knight. “There was everything from food, diapers and toys. It looked like you were walking into a giant Walmart. Everyone wanted to be a part of it and he did not make it about himself.”

“Harvest of Love” was held for three years in the early 1990s at the Windy Hill Ranch pavilion.

His generosity extended to scholarship funds for MHS students through the Louise Knight Scholarship Foundation, which he presented for over 30 years. He was named Man of the Year by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce in 1990.

Doctors determined in early January that Knight had Mycobacterium abscessus, a rare bacterial infection. He spent his final months in his home with his wife, who acted as his primary caregiver.

“He became a full-time patient here at home,” said Dawn Knight. “It became a way of life for us and we, after 42 years, kind of re-bonded. We became reacquainted with our home together.”

Knight had two children by his first wife, Gail Stillwell, and two by Dawn Knight. All four of his children have followed their father’s footsteps into the courtroom. Kevin, Laurie and Sonnye are all attorneys while Griffin, his youngest, has also graduated from law school and will sit for the bar in September.

Knight’s funeral will take place Thursday at First Baptist Church in Madisonville at 1 p.m. Masks will be provided and standard social distancing practices implemented. It will also be streamed live on the First Baptist Church’s Facebook page and at https://livestream.com/madisonvillefbc.

A brief burial service will be held at Madisonville Cemetery followed by a reception at the Kimbro Center.

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