By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – A special luncheon was held Thursday, Nov. 30 at the Crockett Civic Center to celebrate Hilliard McKnight day – a testament to a simple man who, through music, texts and simple love, has helped bring a community together and make a small town proud.
A Crockett native, McNight graduated from Crockett High School in 1972 and worked for over 30 years at NUCOR-Vulcraft before retiring about ten years ago. Most retirements involve quiet hobbies and too much time at home. For McKnight, retirement has been far busier that he ever thought it would be.
After “Hilliard McKnight Day” was proclaimed in Crockett in 2019, McKnight figured that would be reason enough to get people together, help his community and distribute all of that love he has for those around him. McKnight said he was pretty quiet growing up, but learned to support other people by encouraging them, even on their worst days.
McKnight began working on promoting unity in the community in 2011, organizing a gospel music event at Harvest Church, along with Dennis Ivey. He wanted to bring together all the people of Crockett through music and fellowship. While many people think he is a pastor, he refers to himself as a “pastor’s helper” and started his texting ministry, texting people all over the world, just to check in and wish them a good day.
McKnight told of one man he met in Houston who recently told him he had saved every text McKnight had sent him, going back to 2017.
You can see McKnight just about everywhere, all over Crockett and places beyond. From stopping by local businesses to wish them success, to popping by the police or fire departments, to texting to his people to give them a positive word. This reporter can attest to McKnight’s fervent discipline in checking in on people, receiving encouraging texts almost every day. He was this year’s Grand Marshal at the Houston County Career Women Christmas Parade.
With support from local government officials and NUCOR-Vulcraft, McKnight was able to get the lunch provided to local senior citizens, donating blankets and providing worship and love to all. The program included local dignitaries such as Crockett city officials, Houston County officials and local business people. Even the mayors of Groveton and Palestine were on hand to support the day. McKnight said he was grateful for all the support. but the day wasn’t about him, it was about his message.
“Stay focused on a higher power and don’t deter from what you believe. If you believe in something, it will come to fruition, but you sometimes have to wait,” McKnight said. “Go to church, as much as you can and read your Bible. Stay focused on being happy. We all get sad – I get sad too, but I try not to stay sad. When I get sad, I start texting. I focus on other people and making them feel better and that sadness goes away.”
Pastor Reginald Marshall provided the music and the event was catered by Margaret Broughton from Cattleman’s Country Cafe.
McKnight has no plans to stop his efforts, planning his traditional “Fun Day” in Crockett next May. He said he was thrilled and humbled so many of the community leaders came out to support his efforts, saying it all goes to show what one young man can do if he puts his mind to something.
“It made me feel good they came in to work along with me. They really want the community to be more united and stronger,” McKnight concluded. “We all live here and we see each other and we want to be an example that other people can follow. That our small town can be united. And there’s so much compassion right here in this little town called Crockett.”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]