McKnight, 79, serves as pastor emeritus of Bible Deliverance Temple, the church he founded in 1963 at the corner of Fenwick and Eve streets.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver said McKnight had been a vital part of the former mill community since founding the church 49 years ago.
“Pastor McKnight is a man I have long admired and who I’m blessed to call my friend,” Copenhaver said. “His commitment to his faith, his family and the community has served as an inspiration for others to follow and this recognition is undoubtedly well deserved.”
McKnight, who now lives with family members in south Augusta but continues to preach a weekly service at Bible Deliverance Temple, said despite changes taking place in Harrisburg, the church’s mission remains intact.
“When we came and established a church, that’s where God wanted us to do it,” he said. “We haven’t felt any different yet on that, and we are in the inner city serving a purpose, which we are glad to be doing.”
The church opened Harrisburg Family Life Center, which offered programs for young people and seniors in the 1990s “strictly to be a blessing in the community,” he said.
Since its origins as a community of workers at nearby mills and others uprooted by construction of hospitals on Walton Way, Harrisburg has long been transitional and plagued by blight, crime and absentee landlords.
But that might be changing, McKnight said.
“There are people that are moving in there and remodeling those houses and things of that nature,” he said. “It’s starting to change back for the better.”
Despite that and other changes, the church remains strong, McKnight said. It has withstood and lost only “two families” since his son, Pastor H. Kelly McKnight Jr., was sentenced a year ago for wire fraud, he said.
“The bulk of the church, he met with them before he left, and they have stayed with the church during all this time,” McKnight said.
The bridge being named for McKnight is located on the new extension of Greene Street that connects River Watch Parkway with 15th Street near Enterprise Mill. He will be honored during a 10 a.m. Wednesday ceremony at the site.