Written by | Ray Cornelius
The state of Georgia dedicated a special highway Tuesday morning to multi Grammy award-winning vocalist, author, actress and restaurateur, Gladys Knight. The legendary Motown singer, who is affectionately known as the “Empress of Soul,” was in attendance along with her famous brother, Merald “Bubba” Knight, and a host of family members and close friends. The event took place at the Senate Chambers of the State Capitol.
Gladys Knight at the press conference
The morning began with a press conference featuring remarks from Senator Donzella James and State Representative “Able” Mable Thomas, who were both instrumental in the getting the acknowledgement passed through the Senate. The 71-year-old entertainer, who was often referred to by many of the public officials as a real “Georgia Peach,” grew up on English Avenue in the Vine City District of Atlanta.
Knight with Senator Donzella James (right) and “Able” Mable Thomas (left)
Following the press conference was a formal program featuring the 11th Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, Casey Cagle, who allowed Knight to sit in his coveted chair. During the ceremony, she was honored with proclamations from the State of Georgia featuring forewords by Governor Nathan Deal as well as Fulton County.
Senator Donzella James giving some backstory on why she wanted Knight to receive a highway dedication
There were also remarks from Knight’s husband, William McDowell, her son, Shanga Hankerson and her brother, Merald “Bubba” Knight, who revealed the history behind their group’s famous hit record, “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The song was originally titled, “Midnight Plane to Houston” but Gladys intervened and had it changed to reflect a more personal connection while also giving credit to her beloved home state.
Merald “Bubba” Knight saluting his famous sister
The program ended with a soul-stirring rendition of the state song, “Georgia On My Mind” performed by Knight’s Choir along with a few words of acknowledgement from the honoree. “Never did I dream that I would have a street named after me,” said the music diva, who is no.51 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Knight’s Choir performing the state song, “Georgia on My Mind”
She also acknowledged James “Pip” Woods, her cousin who she claims was the real inspiration behind her group’s famous name. The Gladys Knight Highway will run from Peachtree Street to 14th Street along State Route 9 in Fulton County, Georgia.
Check out more photos below from today’s ceremony:
Knight during the morning press conference
Knight with her sister and brother
State Representative “Able” Mable Thomas talking about Georgia’s most famous “Peach”
GLBC Chair Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler conducted the morning prayer
11th Lieutenant Governor of Georgia Casey Cagle offering greetings
Knight’s husband William McDowell talking about his famous wife
Knight’s son and manager of Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles Restaurants – Shanga Hankerson
Merald “Bubba” Knight telling the real story behind the song, “Midnight Train to Georgia”
Knight’s daughter-in-law, Gloria “Glo” Hankerson and grandchildren
Knight holding her State Proclamation with Senator Donzella James
Knight receiving her proclamation from Fulton County
Knight receiving her Highway Dedication from Thomas and James
Ta-Da…the unveiling of Gladys Knight Highway
Knight standing next to her cousin, James “Pip” Woods
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com