Editorial: Bridge honoring late fire chief Rawlings a fitting tribute to a good man

Aug. 07, 2013 @ 11:24 PM

It’s sometimes too bad that we wait until a person has died before we honor and recognize their achievements. They can’t be around to feel the warmth and see what their life meant. Still, the most important thing is that at some point people earn their rewards.

They honored the late Mike Rawlings on Monday with a ceremony and unveiling of a sign marking a bridge on Veterans Boulevard named in his honor. As everyone stood standing in a meadow where his boyhood home once stood, Rawlings’ family and dozens of firefighters gathered with his family one to honor the former Sevierville fire chief by dedicating the bridge in his name.

The Michael L. Rawlings Memorial Bridge is located close to where Middle Creek crosses Veterans near The Gathering church. Rawlings served as chief until a long battle with cancer ended on Jan. 1, 2012.

“Today Mike Rawlings, I know, is looking down with a smile on his face from ear to ear,” Mayor Bryan Atchley said.

Rawlings oversaw the fire department’s transition from an all-volunteer organization to a full-time, paid agency.

“A bridge is a structure that provides safe passage along the way. Mike Rawlings did that the day he joined Sevierville/Sevier County Volunteer Fire Department,” Atchley said. The two departments split when Sevierville opted to start a full-time, paid agency.

State Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, introduced a resolution in the Legislature that led to the bridge naming. The former alderman recalled working with Rawlings as a volunteer.

“He was chief but he was a fellow firefighter,” he said. “Even when I was a volunteer and he was my assistant chief, lots of times he would be right there beside us,” Carr said.

It will be nice, gratifying, to drive along Veterans and the sign honoring a good man, a dedicated public servant and someone who earned respect. Those are the kinds of people deserving of such memorials.