'Sonny Knight' to be honored at cattleman's dinner


A local man long known for his sense of humor is being honored this year by an organization that started with a joke.

Roger “Sonny” Knight, Jr., was born the same year that the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association (MSCA) was founded, and is being honored by the organization this Saturday at its annual Steak Dinner.

Knight’s father, a former state representative, once passed a resolution in the Texas House of Representatives recognizing the MSCA.

The organization on Saturday will recognize the son who served as president in 1978, and whose son, Kevin, also served as president from 1993 to 1994.

“Our family always supported the MSCA, which was started as a kind of spoof on why so many people in Madisonville wore cowboy boots when a thorough investigation would show that most of them had nothing to do with the cattle business or rearing or selling cattle,” Knight said. “From those events, Henry Fox (former editor of The Madisonville Meteor), started writing about the ‘sidewalk cattlemen’ in Madisonville. He felt that as close as most of the men who wore boots got to cattle was walking around the square and the sidewalks in Madisonville. Since there are not many sidewalks in Madisonville, they mainly walked around and around the square, thus the name ‘sidewalk cattlemen.’ Dr. (J.B.) Heath and others turned the idea into an organization to promote Madisonville, and we have had everyone from Miss America to numerous governors and dignitaries appear.”

Knight graduated from Madisonville High School and earned degrees from the University of Texas and University of Houston Law School. He served two terms as Madison County Attorney and was honored by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce as Man of the Year in 1990.

A man long dedicated to local history, Knight donated the building that now houses the Madison County Museu.

Sonny became president of the MSCA in 1978, and recalled a historic “no-show” at an event that year.

“(We) decided to have a change of pace and get a different type of speaker (at the steak dinner) and hired Kenny Stabler, the then quarterback of the Oakland Raiders, who did not show,” Knight said. “Thankfully, our United States Congressman, Charles Wilson, and Sheriff Jack Heard of Houston, were at the event and they each spoke as a gratuity to the Cattlemen’s. It was an embarrassing event for me, but everything turned out well. There was a huge crowd that had shown up to see Stabler speak, and ultimately he did make an appearance in Madisonville.”

Knight remembers participating in several Cattlemen’s events in his youth. He recalls selling a steer for an MSCA project for 68 cents per pound and being absolutely thrilled.

While Knight will be the honoree Saturday, the main attraction for many in attendance will likely be headliner John Anderson, who will take the stage at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Anderson has recorded five No. 1 hits in a career spanning more than 30 years, including “Swingin’,” “Wild and Blue,” “Black Sheep,” “Straight Tequila Night,” and “Money in the Bank.”

The MSCA is the oldest continually operating nonprofit organization in Texas, and one aspect of the Steak Dinner that has also been added over the years is a youth art contest. Eight winners from Madisonville schools will showcase their art for a live auction at Saturday night’s event. The proceeds from the auction will go back to the students.

Anderson signed his first recording contract in 1977 and reached the Billboard Country Hot 100 chart for the first time that same year with the song, “I’ve Got a Feelin’ (Somebody’s Been Stealin’). Country Music Television has compared his musical style to that of the “New Traditionalist” genre attributed to Garth Brooks and Ricky Skaggs, among others.

Anderson’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Going to Be a Diamond Some Day)” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Male Country Vocal Performance category in 1981.

The 73rd Annual MSCA Steak Dinner will take place at the Cattleman’s Pavilion on Hwy. 75 in Madisonville. For more information, contact Joel Hardy at 936-348-9000, Wes Hammit at 936-349-0500, or Kevin Knight at 936-348-3543.