Family of late councilman hoping Mobile will honor him

While some might remember the late Mobile City Councilman Levon Manzie’s more recent actions as the one year anniversary of his death nears, Jeanette Manzie, his mother, will never forget her son’s first foray into politics.

While a student at Mary B. Austin, Levon organized a petition to get the physical education teacher fired because he felt she wasn’t treating students the right way. The petition garnered enough support that the principal of the school was forced to get Levon’s parents involved.

“We had to go to the school to diffuse the situation,” Manzie said.

Levon’s love of politics and career in ministry were in his blood, she said, as she remembered her son, who died on September 19, 2021. He was a fourth generation pastor and his maternal grandfather was deeply involved in politics, she said.

“My father was president of the school board in Sumter County and was very involved in politics,” Manzie said. “He admired my father and the drive and desire in politics were inspired by him.”

Levon turned that passion into a calling as pastor at St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church in Whistler as well as stints as both president of the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners and president of the Mobile City Council, before his death.

As for the anniversary of Levon’s death from a lingering illness he’d had since childhood, Manzie called living without him “tough.”

“It has been a tough year, a lonesome year,” she said. “We were sidekicks. It’s an adjustment; the major adjustment.”

honor

Manzie and her late son’s campaign manager, friend and “brother” Harry Austin, want Levon to be honored by the city for his work on the citizens’ behalf. While current and former councilors have made overtures about doing something special and two had talked to the family, Manzie just never felt the timing was right. That feeling has changed.

“I would like for something to be name after him,” she said. “Something that encompasses the city of Mobile, and not just District 2. It should be something monumental. Not to take anything away from anybody else and I’m biased, but I think he deserves the honor.”

Specifically, Manzie mentioned several opportunities for her son to be remembered with plans for a possible Amtrak train station and the moving from the city’s commercial airport to the Brookley Aeroplex.

“Things of that nature, I would like to see his name be a part of, a Black person’s name be a part of,” she said.

Austin had a more specific ask of the powers that be when it comes to honoring his friend.

“I would like to see a bust in Government Plaza,” he said. “Something saying he was a true servant. He had all the qualities for that.”

Levon’s sister, Keta Manzie, will speak to the City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday about the anniversary of his death.

legacy

Manzie said her son was “an inspiration to many young men” and had a “spirit about him” when it came to public service.

“He was so calm,” she said. “He changed people. He changed me for the better. I miss him.”

In more than 50 years in politics, Austin said he had never seen anyone like Levon Manzie before. They met while Levon was still on the school board.

“I worked hard for this city,” he said. “I used to drive him through every inch of this city to see what was going on. He was a great person.”

Manzie listed the ongoing federal grant program to rebuild Broad Street as one of her son’s greatest accomplishments.

“The new construction on Broad Street; he was very proud of that,” she said.

Levon was also proud of the effort to bring Amtrak service back to the city, as he felt it was something everyone could use. He was also very proud of the work he did to bring lighting to a number of parks in District 2.

Levon died last year, following the general municipal election and a runoff facing current District 2 Councilman William Carroll. Despite his death, there was an effort to get him elected posthumously, but the campaign fell short.

“We wanted to finish what Levon had started,” Manzie said. “In my opinion, there shouldn’t have been a runoff. People entered the race to put unnecessary pressure on him and it did.”

The campaign to have her son postumously elected was an effort to the voters in District 2 an option.

“We wanted to let the people decide and not let someone get in office by default,” she said.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, at one time, appointed Manzie to serve out the remaining weeks of Levon’s term from the end of September to November 1. Stimpson had to terminate that appointment due to a felony on her record.

Manzie has no regrets when it comes to the failed appointment. She said she was only asking for a month to finish out her son’s term. She blamed the information getting out on concerned opponents she would later run for the seat, but she said that wasn’t ever going to happen.

As for the felony, Manzie said she could’ve gotten out of it some 30 years ago, but wanted to fight the charges because of her children. She said she was innocent of the charges, but she was found guilty regardless.

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