ANDERSON — Lillie (Vontress) Givens Manuel will be remembered for her perseverance and her love for Anderson’s history.

Givens Manuel, who died Monday at 91, worked for Anderson Community School Corp. from 1967 to 1980 as an English teacher. She also compiled the book series “Black History of Anderson and Madison County, 1937-67,” a compilation of four books, each with more than 500 pages of information, on a 30-year history of the African-American culture in Madison County.

Several people, including former history teacher and local historian Doug Vermillion, worked on the project for more than five years with Givens Manuel.

“She was just a wonderful person,” Vermillion said. “She was always a very happy person and a very energetic person, and her pleasantness and energy were electrifying to those around her. She inspired you, inspired you to think about things, inspired you to do things that you might not otherwise do.”

Givens Manuel was the first black person to receive the Elwood H. Phillips Award for outstanding historical service to the county in 1997.

When she was honored for the accomplishment by the African-American Leadership Forum in 2003, she said, “I want to start another volume from 1967 to the end of the century. But, I’m 86 and getting old, so I hope I can make it to finish that project.”

“I know that Lillian will be very much missed in the community, because she contributed so much, especially in the area of disclosing the African-American history, which was relatively hidden,” Vermillion said.

Givens Manuel was born in 1916 in Warren County, Ky., one of 10 children in an impoverished family. She moved to Madison County in 1942 with her first husband, James Givens, after she received her bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State Industrial College.

In 1963, Givens Manuel started a graduate studies program at Ball State Teachers College, earning a master of arts degree in English in 1965. In 1967, she was hired to work at Central Junior High School in Anderson.

Being very involved in the community, Givens Manuel became the first black person to be appointed to the Anderson Board of Public Safety, and she was the first black person and the first woman to be on the Madison County Board of Health.

After the loss of her second husband, Milton Manuel, she devoted herself to writing two volumes of family history before starting to tackle the history of blacks in Madison County.

“I met her when I worked at the library,” said Phyllis Leedom, who worked on the books with Givens Manuel.

What was supposed to be a monthlong project turned into years of research and compiling.

“One of the reasons it took so long is we kept finding more things,” Leedom said.

Leedom said people always liked to work with Givens Manuel, who was passionate about her work.

“She was a wonderful person who loved people, especially in her community,” Leedom said. “She wanted them to know about the history of their people, and so doing this project made us all aware of what the black community had to share with those who were not black. Even those who were black, many of them did not know a thing about the history of the black community in Anderson.”

As an educator, Givens Manuel took mothership over her students.

“She was a very sweet lady,” Leedom said. “She was very much for education, and she tried to instill that in all her students, and she kept up with them. She knew where they were and what they were doing and who they married. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if a lot of her former students visited the funeral home.”

Givens Manuel, who had no children of her own, also played mother to others in the community.

“My husband called her ‘Mom,’” Leedom said. “He lost his parents in 1988, so he would always tell her that she was his second mom. Her eyes would just light up like stars. She couldn’t believe he’d say that. I’d say that he meant that with every bit of his being.”

Funeral arrangements for Givens Manuel are pending at L.C. May Funeral Service in Anderson.

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