Friends, family celebrate Mannings’ passion as educator
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
On the third page of the program for Eva Mannings’ funeral, there was a matter-of-fact statement on the last line.
It had one major ask from the woman who had touched the lives of thousands as an educator, mentor and volunteer in Tallahassee.
“May the works I’ve done speak for me,” the single line read.
Throughout a nearly 90-minute service at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church last Monday, several people vouched that Mannings’ work indeed will speak for her as long as her legacy is remembered. Manning died on Nov. 14, 11 days after celebrating her 95th birthday.
Those who knew her recalled stories about how Mannings shaped them into becoming successful, calling her one of a kind. Rev. R. B. Holmes used the simple theme, “She did it” for eulogizing Mannings, who spent 38 years in the Leon County school system, while raising twin daughters Jeanne and Jeannette.
Proclamations from city government and Congressman Al Lawson were also presented to the family. Her influence on children was front and center during the service that was attended by city officials and state representative Ramon Alexander.
“She taught children how to give, how to lead, how to read, how to do math, how to speak, how to be humble, how to say thank you,” Holmes said during his eulogy. “She was old-school because she taught you to say ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am, please, forgive me and may I help you.’ ”
At one point, Holmes referred to the biopic of the television character Fred Rogers to emphasize the impact Mannings had in her community.
“It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood because Mrs. Mannings lived in the neighborhood,” Holmes said. “Mrs. Mannings was a good neighbor. Everything Mrs. Mannings touched; she made it so much more beautiful, so much brighter and so much better. Everything and everybody she came in contact with she blessed.”
Mannings’ daughters didn’t say much, although Jeannette’s only daughter Jamila reflected on the time she realized she was allergic to horses. She made the discovery after going on a trip to a horse farm with her grandmother.
“City girl, me said ‘I want to ride a pony,’ ” Jamila said. “Somehow she managed to find a stable somewhere in town. We rode around the horse the first time. It was there I discovered I’m allergic to horses.
“I now have a picture of myself riding around on a horse in hives.”
Mannings was a teacher at Bond, Pineview and Sealey elementary schools. After her retirement from the school district, she taught at Bethel Christian Academy for more than a decade, starting in 1993.
Terry Cruz, one of her students at Sealey, where Mannings was the first Black teacher, said Mannings was creative in her teaching style. She recalled the time that Manning used a bathtub with pillows to encourage her students to read.
“We all clamored to be the chosen one to sit in that bathtub with some pillows and a book of our choosing,” Cruz said. “To this day, I think of Mrs. Mannings when I relax in the tub, enjoying a good book.”
Manning came to Tallahassee from Miami in 1942 and was a student at FAMU when it was Florida A&M College. She earned a bachelor of science degree in business in 1946 and in 1958 earned a degree in education from FAMU.
Mannings was married to DJ Mannings, a cab driver, from 1946 until he died in 1974.
Honesty and integrity were two of the values that Mannings taught, said her friend Vivian Williams Hobbs.
“We had to have respect for ourselves and everyone else that we encountered,” she said. “She wanted conscientiousness. The main thing she taught me was empathy for others. But most importantly, Eva Manning taught me that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”
Na’im Akbar, another friend of Mannings’ family, called her a “mighty tree” that was rooted in the community for more than 60 years. Akbar, who ran through a list of achievements by Mannings, including being the first Black editor of the Tallahassee Democrat from 1953 to 1967, drew laughter when he mentioned Mannings’ car that was affectionately known as “Blue Berry.”
When the car went on the blink, he became Manning chauffer who took her to Bethel twice each week. She as punctual and was never late getting to the church where she was a devout member.
She’d wait at her doorstep for him to pick her up, Akbar said.
“Invariably she would be standing there, waiting on the steps waiting to get in the ride to get her to Bethel Baptist Church,” he said.
When he asked how do you celebrate life like Mannings’ in two minutes, a voice in the congregation said, “you don’t.”
Brett Shields, another of Mannings’ student at Sealey Elementary, use his time at the podium to deliver a personal message. He could have been speaking for most in the crowd.
“Mrs. Manning had a huge impact on my life,” he said. “She would always be loved—loved by me.”