Mayor of Tennessee City Home to Bonnaroo Music Festival Dies of Coronavirus

"Mayor Norman passed away in the early hours of Monday, October 12, 2020, after a valiant fight against COVID-19," the city said in a statement

Mayor Lonnie Norman
Mayor Lonnie Norman. Photo: City of Manchester

The mayor of the Tennessee city that hosts the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has died.

Lonnie Norman, mayor of Manchester, Tennessee, died on Monday morning following a "valiant fight" against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). He was 79.

"With a deep sense of sadness and loss, we announce the passing of Mayor Lonnie Norman after being hospitalized for COVID-19 on October 1, 2020," the city announced on Facebook Monday.

"Mayor Norman passed away in the early hours of Monday, October 12, 2020, after a valiant fight against COVID-19."

The city's board of mayor and aldermen added in a statement, "Lonnie was a statesman and a diplomat, but above all else, he was kind, honest, and thoughtful. In a world that seems so easily divided, Mayor Norman brought us together."

"Mayor Norman understood the importance of compromise and honest debate," the statement added. "He guided our community with a strong and steady yet gentle hand with empathy and compassion."

Manchester is the home of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which brings more than 80,000 guests to the little town of 10,000 people every year, NBC News reports.

The festival was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been rescheduled for early September 2021.

The festival issued statements on Norman's illness and then his death on Twitter.

"The incredible, Mayor Lonnie Norman, of our hometown Manchester, TN has been hospitalized due to COVID-19. The Bonnaroo family sends him all the love and hopes for a quick and speedy recovery," festival organizers said on October 10.

On Monday, the festival organizers remembered Norman as a "dedicated community leader."

"Early this morning, Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman passed away after his fight with COVID-19," the statement said. "Our condolences and thoughts go out to his family, friends, and residents of Manchester, who lost a neighbor and dedicated community leader."

Manchester's vice mayor, Marilyn Howard, had already taken over Norman's mayoral duties prior to his death, WPLN reports.

Norman began as a custodian at the Arnold Engineering Design Center in the 1960s and had become a supervisor technician by the time he retired.

When he was elected in 1991, Norman became Manchester's first Black mayor, and he went on to be reelected four times. His family said in a statement Monday that was "an act of trust for which he was immensely grateful."

"He loved his hometown and they loved him," the statement said.

"A new recreation complex, soccer field, improvements to countless parks, other infrastructure, and support for our beloved Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival were among his proudest accomplishments," his family's statement continued. "He also fought hard against rural hospital closures, so all Coffee County citizens could access quality, affordable health care."

The family concluded their statement by urging people to take COVID-19 seriously.

"COVID-19 is real and it took our beloved Lonnie Norman from us. To his fellow public officials, we say please remember your duty to keep the public safe. To our fellow citizens, we say please wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and protect public health and each other."

As of Monday afternoon, there have been at least 1,588 reported cases of COVID-19 and 17 coronavirus-related deaths in Coffee County, which includes Manchester, according to data from the state's department of health.

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