Craig Watkins: Dallas County District Attorney is Black History in the Making
In 2006, Dallas native Craig Watkins was elected into office as the first African American District Attorney in the State of Texas. Many have described Watkins as a rebel and a revolutionary, mainly because of his approach to prosecuting criminals. “Not just because of what I look like, but the philosophical approach I bring to the office,” said Watkins.
Educated in Dallas Public Schools, Watkins graduated from Prairie View A & M University and later earned his law degree from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.
They themselves were business owners, breaking the mold and paving the way for his success.
Under Watkins’ leadership, the Dallas County D.A.’s office has achieved a 99.4% conviction rate; his internationally recognized conviction integrity program uses DNA technology to put the guilty in behind bars. But the biggest impact has come from the freeing of dozens of wrongfully convicted prisoners.
Watkin’s Conviction Integrity Unit has reviewed more than 300 cases and helped free 25 wrongly convicted inmates.
Craig Watkins says he hopes to pass the torch to younger kids, so they will one day continue his fight for equality.
Tom Joyner: The Hardest Working Man in Radio.. and Beyond
For more than 40 years, Tom Joyner has been an advocate for the plight of African Americans, using radio, web and television as a platform to bring about social change and reform. From marching in the civil rights movement to supporting other various causes, the nationally syndicated radio host of the Tom Joyner Morning show is much more than just a radio deejay.
Joyner is the founder of REACH Media Inc., with subsidiaries including the Tom Joyner Foundation, The Tom Joyner Morning show and BlackAmericaWeb.com.
In 1998, he was the first African American to be elected for induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Joyner was inducted in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site on January 12, 2008.
He has hundreds of awards and accolades and has broken numerous records, but Joyner is too humble to offer an opinion on his honors, saying only that he treats each one the same and is grateful for every one he receives.
An advocate for black voter registration, Joyner takes to the airways to get the message out during election seasons. He also uses his radio program to organize marches, fundraising cruises, family reunions, and fight against social injustice.
As an advocate for health initiatives, Joyner has discussed healthy eating and participated in marathons to help fight obesity. The Tom Joyner Foundation has raised more than 65 million dollars to provide support for students who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The Hercules Scholarship is one of Joyner’s many projects. It celebrates successful male students attending HBCUs and offers money to help them succeed. The Full Ride Scholarship is awarded to a freshman entering an HBCU in the respective year’s fall semester.
A true pioneer for civil rights and a true testament of where hard work and perseverance can bring a person, Joyner donates thousands each year for veterans education, global education, teachers organizations and black arts.
When asked if his work is done, Joyner has no doubt about his answer.
“I don’t feel like my work is done; every day there’s something to address, especially in the African American community. We try to address every issue that affects the African American community. No. No, my work is not done.”
Judge L. Clifford Davis: Pioneer for De-Segregation in Schools
Born in Wilton, Arkansas in 1924, he grew up in a community that was segregated. Blacks and Whites living blocks away, but never intermingling. It was then he saw his first glimpse of the reality of the term “separate but unequal.”
He later went on to become the first African American to get accepted to the University of Arkansas Law School. But decided to stay at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. after learning they would require him to go through more loops then the other students.
It was at Howard University, he learned to become a lawyer for the people, and he says he was inspired to make a difference in his community.
After graduating from Howard University School of Law in 1949, Davis practiced civil rights law in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he says he was one of nine Black lawyers in the entire state.
In 1956 he sued the Mansfield Independent School District to integrate the schools. Filing Jackson vs. Rawdon in the U.S. District Court in Dallas, that suit resulted in the desegregation of the Mansfield Independent School District. But it was only the beginning. In 1959, Davis filed Flax vs. Potts, another federal civil rights suit, which led to the desegregation of the Fort Worth Independent School District. The Ft Worth lawsuit took more than 20 years before it was officially passed.
In the 1960s he became one of the first Black lawyers to join the Tarrant County Bar Association and in 1983, he ascended to the Texas district court bench, becoming one of the first Black state district judges in Tarrant County, where he served on the bench until 1988.
Today, Davis continues to practice law, more than 60 years fighting for the civil rights of others, when asked about his work he said, “Just a person working in the community, trying to make community better for all people.”
S.M. Wright: Dallas Civil Rights Leader Remembered
On February 7, 1927, Wright was born in one of the poorest Dallas neighborhoods, the Bon Ton community.
According to his son, SM Wright II, his father was determined to “be somebody,” so he focused on his education, graduating from Lincoln High School and earning a bachelor’s degree from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. He later earned a master’s and a doctorate from Bishop College.
A natural leader, Wright served as advisor to elected officials, businessmen, and civic leaders. He was known for his ability to unite ethnic groups peacefully. During the turbulent 1960s, Dr. Wright worked with city leaders to foster integration in education, employment, and political representation as well as in restaurants, hotels, shops, and swimming pools.
Dr. Wright built the People’s Missionary Baptist Church in South Dallas in 1957, also becoming Pastor of the congregation. His son SM Wright II, now pastors the church and founded the SM Wright Foundation. Continuing his father’s tradition, the foundation provides support and stability to underprivileged children and less fortunate families through hunger relief, economic empowerment, and assistance in the areas of education, health, and social services.
He died on November 3, 1994. To honor his legacy, then Governor George W. Bush changed the name of Highway 175 to the S.M. Wright Freeway in 1995.