Anthony Dunnings, M.L.King Center director, dies at home

Anthony Dunnings

Anthony Dunnings

Anthony Dunnings, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and well-known community leader, died suddenly at his Alcoa home Tuesday.

Alcoa Police said officers responded to a medical call between 2:50 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. at 112 West Newton St., Alcoa. Dunnings, 37, was taken to Blount Memorial Hospital.

Sissy Ferguson, Dunnings’ assistant, got word of his death Tuesday afternoon from a friend and said she was shocked. “I saw him last night, and, like I always did, I said, ‘I’ll see you kid, tomorrow,’” she said.

Dunnings is an Alcoa native, and leaves behind his wife, Shelley; son, Jonah; and mother, Donna Dunnings. He is also the son of the late Anthony Haszelton.

In addition to being the executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., he was the associate pastor at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

Dunnings was active in civic and religious affairs, holding positions of leadership on numerous boards.

“He was one of those people, if you said his first name, everyone knew who he was. We all called him ‘Tidy’ because he was so neat,” Ferguson said. “He was young enough to be my son, and he hired me on this job, and we became good friends. He was the kindest, sweetest person and would never tell anyone no and would rip and run and do anything he could to help anyone.”

Ferguson said the children and teens at the center respected him. “They respected him because he respected them,” she said. “The kids were his priority and he was always trying to figure out ways to make things better for them. He loved the Lord, I know that. He was also youth minister at his church, Bethel Baptist.”

In addition to being missed in the community, Ferguson said Dunnings would be missed personally. “I loved him dearly, and I’m going to miss him. It’s really hard. He always made everyone welcome,” she said. “He’s one of those people who will be missed.”

Joe Huff, executive director of Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation, said Dunnings was assistant director of the M.L.King Center for several years before becoming director and has been with them for about 10 years.

Huff said Dunnings had a tremendous impact on that community. “That recreation center has been a hub for the community,” Huff said. “He was involved in other activities. He had a tremendous impact not just at Parks and Rec but in the whole community.”

Rod Jackson, executive director of the Blount County Children’s Home, said he was shocked by the news. “Anthony has grown up in this community and has chosen to give back to the community, not only as director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center but as a coach for Parks and Rec and Alcoa football,” he said.

Jackson said he coached Dunnings when he was younger.

“We have lost one who hadn’t fully reached his potential and that always saddens me. Anthony was the quiet kind of community leader who could bridge the gap when emotions ride high. He could use the quiet logic it takes to resolve issues,” Jackson said. “He was always on the forefront in providing activities for all ages in this community. He was very, very strong in his faith. He will be missed for a long, long time.”

Dunnings was a former class member of Leadership Blount, the leadership development organization in Blount County. Executive Director Cathy Cate said that while Dunnings went through the program before she became director, she remembered Dunnings fondly for his work in the community. “He has always been very interested in supporting the community,” she said. “With his work at the M.L.King Center, he was interested in connecting people and giving back to the community. He was a professional and caring person in every interaction I had with him. He’ll be sorely missed in the Alcoa community and all over Blount County.”

The family will receive friends at 4 p.m. today at Bethel Baptist Church. Foothills Funeral Home will be in charge of the arrangements.

Blount Today will update this information on line as more becomes available.

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