To the editor:
I write today about the matter of renaming T.C. Williams High School. Our high school should be renamed and the rationale for such a change should not be up for debate. Flatly, the name must be changed.
In searching for a new name, we should focus on recognizing someone in our community who embodies both character and integrity and someone who has served our community through years of dedicated commitment and humility. I believe such a person is Judge Nolan Dawkins who recently retired from the bench of the Alexandria Circuit Court.
I have known Dawkins since our children were teammates on the youth soccer fields in Alexandria and later as classmates and teammates in high school. Like so many Alexandrians who have met through the activities of their youngsters, Nolan and I spent many hours discussing civic affairs while our girls toiled on the soccer pitch or on the basketball court.
Fortunately, our friendship has lasted for decades. I can attest to Dawkins’ high intellect and character. His sense of right and wrong, together with his ability to appreciate the differing perspectives of others be they friends, colleagues or citizens who have come before the court are his most striking traits. I suppose these qualities are what have made him such a fine jurist.
Dawkins grew up in Alexandria and was among the first students to have integrated George Washington High School, graduating in 1965.
After serving in Vietnam as an officer and graduating from Seton Hall University Law School, Nolan came home to Alexandria. He joined the City Attorney’s Office where he served with distinction until 1981 when he entered private practice as an attorney.
In 1994, Dawkins was appointed to the bench of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations court – becoming the first full-time African American judge in the city’s history. As a trailblazer, Dawkins created one of Virginia’s first family drug court programs which focused more on rehabilitation and treatment than incarceration.
After serving 14 years on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations bench, Dawkins was appointed by the General Assembly to the Alexandria Circuit Court where he served from 2008 until his recent retirement in June.
I believe all citizens of Alexandria would be proud to have our high school named in honor of Judge Nolan Dawkins. Not just a hometown Alexandrian who has achieved a great deal, he is also a person who was committed to serving his hometown and its citizens through decades as a distinguished jurist. And perhaps the greatest testament of his commitment to the city is that he and his wife Lorraine entrusted his hometown of Alexandria to be the spot where they raised their three daughters.
I strongly endorse and wholeheartedly recommend that our community rename our high school after Dawkins. His commitment to fairness, equity, service and community are the very qualities that should embody the Alexandria and American experience. Future generations of Alexandria students would surely walk the halls of Nolan B. Dawkins High School with pride.
-Kerry J. Donley, former mayor of Alexandria