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‘One of the best’: Mobile City Council President Levon Manzie celebrated during funeral –

The Rev. Levon Manzie was remembered Saturday as the youngest person in Mobile to win a seat to the Mobile County School Board, the Mobile City Council, and only the second Black elected official to become council president.

Harry Austin also remembered Manzie for his encouragement, wisdom and wit while he battled a personal health crisis.

“He said, ‘I fought all of my life, my dad fought all of his life,’ and ‘you just need to keep fighting,’” said Austin, who was a campaign manager and personal friend to Manzie, recalling a past battle he had with cancer.

Manzie, 38, died on Sunday and his life was remembered and celebrated during a funeral service at St. Joseph’s Missionary Baptist Church in Whistler, the same church where he was a pastor at since 2018.

While there has been no official cause of death given, Manzie spent most of his life battling a kidney disease and underwent two kidney transplants – at age 14 and 21.

In recent months, he had been in a wheelchair battling health complications following what he said was a broken hip from a fall after a funeral service he oversaw earlier this spring. But as Austin and others recalled, Manzie did not back away from his duties as a pastor and as councilman who was seeking reelection to his District 2 council seat.

“We drove every street and he met with people who had the smallest of problems and treated them the same way he treated me,” said Austin. “He was never tired.”

Manzie was first elected to the Mobile County School Board for the first time in 2008, when he was in his mid-20s. He served as a school official until his election to the City Council in 2013.

“I would not realize his age until I read it in the paper,” said school board member Reginald Crenshaw. “He was so far beyond what that age called for.”

Crenshaw credited Manzie for helping the board pass a $100 million construction bond to support major renovations to school buildings within Mobile’s inner city. Manzie was also credited in the board’s decision to invest $4 million to renovate the exterior of the newly-reopened Barton Academy building in downtown Mobile.

As a councilman, he was known to return a call from a constituent immediately, and was praised for showing up to a doorstep whenever someone called about a problem.

“He was one of the best elected officials I have ever seen in my life,” said state Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, and a longtime friend.

As a councilman, Manzie helped spearhead improvements within his district that included revitalizing parks and recreation centers, replacing sidewalks within the Downtown Entertainment District, and completing road resurfacing and drainage projects, among other things.

Manzie’s district included downtown Mobile and its surrounding neighborhoods including the historic Africatown community.

“His dedication was to District 2,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “Actually, as you look across the entire city and see these good things occurring, know that Levon played a role.”

Stimpson credited Manzie for being a unifier on the City Council, who helped bring his administration and the council together when the two sides were in the midst of a legal dispute about two years ago.

Mobile City Council

Mobile City Councilman Levon Manzie addresses an audience of supporters for live oak trees along Broad Street during the council’s meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. The council voted 6-1 to deny a citizen’s appeal of a previous tree commission decision after a negotiation among all the parties produced a tentative plan to ensure that more trees could be saved. (John Sharp/

Manzie has been the council’s president overseeing the weekly meetings since 2019. Before that, he was the council’s vice-president since 2017 and served as the “de facto” president while one was not officially appointed.

Manzie was the second Black city council president. Clinton Johnson, who once served as council president for eight years, was the first.

“He was the leader that pulled the City Council together and the administration together to settle our differences and unite and get on with the business of this city,” said Stimpson. “We all owe Levon a tremendous amount of gratitude.”

Manzie was also praised for his role in running St. Joseph’s Baptist Church, following in his late father’s footsteps. Manzie was a fourth-generation pastor; his funeral program called him a “religious icon.”

“We knew him all of his life,” said Nettie Curtis. “We knew when he took his first step. We knew when he gave his first speech. We knew him when he participated in various programs as a youth. He owned a piece of our hearts and we owned a piece of his.”

She added, “We knew since the second-grade that he wanted to be a politician. Becoming a preacher came later.”

Indeed, his interest in becoming a politician at a young age has been expressed by multiple officials and friends in recent days.

A 1999 Mobile Press-Register story illustrated Manzie’s interest in pursuing public life when he was 16 years old, and as a representative of the city’s Youth Council. One of his Youth Council colleagues noted at that the time that Manzie had a collection of 25 autographed photos of politicians, which he obtained after writing them and requesting autographed pictures of themselves.

Bracy said Manzie told him when they were in college as fraternity brothers that “he wanted to run for office.”

“I said, ‘are you just trying to run to get your name out there or are you trying to run to win?’” Bracy recalled. “He told me he intended on winning.”

Manzie never lost an election.

He was seeking a third term to the council at the time of his death. Manzie finished with 48% of the vote in a six-person race for the District 2 council seat on Aug. 24. To avoid a runoff, he needed 50% of the overall vote. William Carroll, the former councilman before Manzie, finished second with 23%.

Manzie’s name will remain on the Oct. 5 runoff ballot alongside Carroll. If Manzie wins, the City Council will have to call for a special election sometime after Nov. 2, when the new council is scheduled to be sworn into office.

But those particulars will wait for another day as Mobile stopped and honored a councilman that Stimpson said “had a heart for service.”

As a funeral procession drove through downtown Mobile, slowing down as it passed by Government Plaza, 76-year-old Lois Myles looked on. She didn’t know Manzie personally, but she felt it was appropriate to take a moment from her day to pay her respects to a councilman whose campaign signs can still be seen around his district.

“He was a nice fella,” she said.

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