Mark L. Stansbury Sr. “I praise God for giving me the opportunity to help others.” (Courtesy photo)

Native son, Markhum “Mark” L. Stansbury Sr., has been named this year’s recipient of the coveted Starks Legacy Award, sponsored by the Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS).

Stansbury will be honored during the historic, virtual 34th Annual Henry Logan Starks Celebration, Feb. 25.

“Thank the Lord for the Rev. Amella Starks-Umoja for nominating me,” said Stansbury. 

“The Henry Logan Starks Legacy Award was named for her father. And I can remember the Sanitation Strike of 1968. I knew some of the activists. Rev. Starks was pastor of St. James AME Church. He was fully engaged in his community, and his legacy is defined by his great works,” Stansbury said.

The award is presented, during a banquet, annually to a community figure exhibiting the qualities of character and commitment to service reflected by the life of Rev. Starks. This year’s theme is “Reimaging the Story: A Season of Change.”

“This is a truly a great vote of confidence,” said Stansbury. “And this honor is a great blessing to me. I praise God for giving me the opportunity to help others. It reminds me of a turtle on a fence. He didn’t get there by himself. He had a lot of help.”

Stansbury is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, where he honed communications skills as editor of the yearbook. 

Mark L. Stansbury Sr. (Courtesy photo)

At the age of 18, he got his first real job as a radio personality and gospel announcer at WDIA, where he currently has worked for more than 50 years.

He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in history from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee in 1966. 

Upon graduation, Stansbury was named public relations director for the school. Following that early professional coup, Stansbury worked as a community relations manager, a life insurance agent and special assistant to the governor of Tennessee.

Stansbury distinguished himself by working as an administrator with four University of Memphis presidents. Stansbury also is an award-winning news photographer, who worked for the African-American newspaper, The Memphis World, as well as the Tri-State Defender

He also served a brief stint at The Commercial Appeal as a reporter and copy editor.

The annual scholarship banquet awards education grants for deserving students pursuing a theological education at MTS. The legacy award is named for Dr. Starks, who became the first African American to join the seminary’s faculty.

A statement released by MTS called Starks a “gentle giant” who filled the halls of MTS with his mantra, “You are somebody.”

It reads in part: 

 “In the shadow of MLK Day and on the heels of inauguration, at a time of concern about the peaceful transition of power, many in our nation feel overlooked, cast aside, or unimportant. Dr. Starks’ words remind us of our collective, inherent worth.

“…Rev. Dr. Henry Logan Starks was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, and a man who worked to make the beloved community a reality. Upon his death, local newspapers described Dr. Starks as a leader “…in the elite class with Dr. (Martin Luther) King, A. Phillip Randolph and Medgar Evers.” 

MTS deemed Starks worthy of the legacy award naming for having “exemplified excellence in theological education and service.” He was celebrated, both in life and in death, by greeting everyone with the same exhortation, ‘You are somebody.’”

(For more information on the virtual Starks celebration, call the seminary office at: 901-458-8232, or visit the website at [email protected].)