By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Those who know Lucille Washington Knox, who celebrated her 100th birthday this month, know she’s as sound and independent as ever.
“She is sharp as a whistle, and entertaining too,” said nephew Kevin Washington of St. Louis. “And doesn’t want any help beyond what she can do for herself. She’s just been a blessing … a joy to have around.”
More than two dozen family and friends gathered in a private dining room at Grille 29 near Colonial Brookwood Village to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Mason City resident, a woman they know affectionately as Aunt Honey.
The Snowden, Ala., native was visibly moved as she was wheeled into the festivities. She thanked her guests for choosing to “party with an old woman.”
Vicki Washington, the niece who organized the get-together, said the biggest challenge was getting the guest of honor to agree to coming.
“She told me I don’t know how many times, ‘Don’t do it. It’s too much trouble,’” Vicki Washington said. “Then she started telling me last week, ‘It’s going to be bad. The weather’s going to be bad. There’s ice in Birmingham.’ I said, Trust me. By next week it’ll all be melted.”
Indeed, weather was no problem. And as the party drew near, Mrs. Knox warmed to the notion, giving instructions of how things should be done.
“I finally told her, ‘Aunt Honey, we are way past that,” Vicki Washington said. “We’re not taking any instructions. I just want you to cooperate with us.”
The party was full of surprises for the centenarian, who had a full career in education. There were congratulations from the City of Fairfield, where she began her career teaching at Robinson Elementary School.
The English teacher moved on to Lawson State Community College, hired in the school’s early days by its first president, Dr. T.A. Lawson and eventually retired as the chair of the English Department.
Current president Dr. Perry W. Ward sent a letter and an assortment of gifts, including a Lawson State cap.
Miles College was among the schools where Mrs. Knox studied and she was Miss Miles College in 1934.
Mrs. Knox is also the widow of former Miles College coach Dr. T.J. “Papa” Knox. Knox-Windham Gymnasium is partly named for him.
The Fairfield college prepared a proclamation honoring the guest of honor and it was delivered by the current Miss Miles College, Jarian Waller of Memphis, Tenn.
“Thank you for paving the way,” Waller said.
T.A. “Theo” Lawson II, the Jefferson County attorney and son of the first Lawson State president, presented a resolution from the county.
“I still call him ‘Little Theo,” she quipped.
Lawson took the nickname in stride – “I ain’t little no more,” he said with a laugh – but acknowledged Mrs. Knox’s place in Lawson State history.
“The school was established in ’65,” he said, “so she was one of the pioneers.”
Mrs. Knox has lived in Mason City since July 1963. Birmingham City Councilor Sheila Tyson, whose district includes Mason City, rushed back from a trip to Washington, D.C., to deliver a resolution from the City of Birmingham.
Mrs. Knox moved to Birmingham when she was 2 years old, living in Smithfield. Ten years later, she joined Broad Street Missionary Baptist Church where, after 88 years, she is still a member in good standing.
The guest of honor graciously thanked everyone for attending her party.
“God doesn’t come,” she said. “He sent all of you.”
And Mrs. Knox offered an invitation to her next party.
“I’ll be right here for my 101st,” she said.