Saturday, April 04, 2009

It gets even better

Most of what I learned about Felix McKnight was shared with me by his assistant, Joan Jackson-Phenix, many years after I first read The Immortal Story.

Here's excerpts of what she shared with me in 2003.

Sherry Andrus, our Dallas Chapter president of Executive Women International, forwarded your email concerning Felix McKnight to me. It sounds like a great story and I am anxious to hear it.

I know Mr. McKnight will be pleased to know of your interest. Yes, he is alive and at 93 is still sharper than most at 35! I am sure he would be glad to talk to you. You will find him to be a very interesting, charming man. He is just recovering from pneumonia and is still somewhat short of breath. I spoke with him this morning and told him about your email.

* * *

I spoke with Mr. McKnight tonight. He was very pleased that you had been touched by his writing of The Immortal Story. His mother wanted him to write the story of Jesus and His last days on earth, he did it for her.

Briefly, I will attempt to cover some of the highlights.

Taking a leave of absence from the Dallas Morning News — where at that time Mr. McKnight was city editor — to do research, he began his writings. With the help of a Rabbi, Catholic Priest and his own Protestant Minister, he worked on the project for two full months. The Rabbi, the Priest and his Minister were vital to his research. The Rabbi had a marvelous library, especially on the cities where Jesus had lived and preached. The Catholic Priest and Mr. McKnight's Minister were very knowledgeable and extremely helpful in his research.

The story was printed as a series – both the Dallas Morning News and later the Dallas Times Herald ran it front page just before Easter for a number of years. It was syndicated and carried in 80 major newspapers throughout the world.

Among others, Time Magazine reviewed it (and somewhat with tongue in cheek stated that this story had already been told — by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

The Masonic Lodge joined in and had over a million copies printed and distributed worldwide. I believe it was published in 35 countries (don't quote me on the number, I just know it was a lot).

Mr. McKnight's biography is quite lengthy. He began his career on the San Antonio Light. From there he worked for The Associated Press, covering the New London school explosion where so many children and teachers lost their lives. For 11 years he worked for The Dallas Morning News as City Editor but left the News in 1957 to become Vice President and Editor at The Dallas Times Herald. Later he was promoted to Co-Publisher and Editor. He semi retired in 1975 but remained with The Dallas Times Herald for several years writing editorial columns. He served as President of American Society of Newspaper Editors and, along with 11 other major metropolitan editors, traveled to Russia, met and angered Nakita Kruechev. Soon afterward he wrote a book entitled The Russia I Saw and it, too, received wide distribution.

  • Attended A&M University
  • Was very instrumental in major changes in Dallas
  • A great civic leader
  • A renowned speaker
  • An avid golfer, continues at age 93 as a member of Augusta National
  • Married to Elizabeth "Lib" Terrell McKnight
  • Two daughters, one deceased, 3 grandsons and two great grandchildren
  • Not a rich man but generous to a fault — my EWI scholarship is one indication. I have known him to help and find jobs for young men who came in off the street. He has given other scholarships to different universities.
Mr. McKnight is the finest man I have ever known, and I've met many good men. I was privileged to work for him and with him for nearly 20 years as his personal secretary. Through him I worked with top government and city officials. Though he doesn't know it, he was the father I never knew.

This is about all the information I have on Felix R. McKnight, but I did learn of his death on February 7, 2004 at the age of 93.

1 comment:

  1. A perfect start to Holy Week! McKnight must've been an impressive guy, and his secretary as well. Thanks so much for sharing this.