Claudia Rose Watkins: A Gift From God
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on September 5, 2021
On October 22, 1995, God gave me the gift of the daughter I had always wanted. Her name is Claudia Rose Watkins. She is the youngest of my five children and my only daughter. Claudia is, and always has been, a beautiful person, inside and out.
On Wednesday, September 2, 2021, Claudia gave me an early birthday gift (as my 73rd birthday is on Wednesday, September 8th). She had just finished emailing me before I called her in London. Claudia announced to me that she turned in her last paper that day and had finished all of her course requirements for the award of her Master's of Science degree in International Business from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom (UK). Exeter, which is one of the UK's most prestigious universities, is located on the outskirts of London.
This moment of pride and joy for Claudia was surreal for me. Susan, Claudia's wonderful, super smart, exceptionally brave, talented, and beautiful mother, had written me a letter a few days earlier to inform me that this event would occur soon. Still, I was overwhelmed with emotion while talking with Claudia.
A Lifetime of Personal Responsibility and Scholastic Achievement
While Claudia was speaking to me on the phone about this monumental milestone in her life, I was taking a mental flight back through time to reflect on her life, her upbringing, and her academic achievements since birth. Claudia has always been a wonderful, exceptionally bright, very focused, and highly responsible child, which I credit to Susan's outstanding parenting skills.
Claudia was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a biracial woman whose mother is white and father is black. Throughout Claudia's life, she has had to deal with the small-mindedness and racism regarding mixed-race children that flourishes in many parts of Birmingham's white community. Additionally, as her father, I am viewed by many white Alabamians as a controversial civil rights attorney who used aggressive class-action litigation as an effective tool to chip away at the centuries-old racial status quo in a Deep South state that continues to brag that Alabama is the "Heart of Dixie" and "Cradle of the Confederacy."
A plethora of barriers to full citizenship for African-Americans in Alabama remains to this day. For example, in 2021, Alabama still has an all-white Supreme Court, an all-white Court of Civil Appeals, and an all-white Court of Criminal Appeals, even though Alabama has a 26.8% black population. Additionally, Alabama is one of the leading states in the effort to roll back the gains African-Americans made under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Because of my 48-year-long legal career of advancing and protecting the civil rights of African-Americans, women, and gays in the state, many whites in Alabama hated me with a vengeance and projected this hatred on Claudia while she was growing up in Birmingham. With the help of a strong support system from Susan and me, as well as our respective families, Claudia weathered it all.
Laying the Foundation for Success in International Business
When Claudia was 13 years old, I took her with me on a business trip to London to expose her to the international world of business. She attended all of my meetings and took notes during the meetings, which we reviewed each night. Claudia met government dignitaries and business moguls from around the world.
For the first time, Claudia realized that Birmingham's small-mindedness and white racism was absent in the international marketplace of business ideas. After all, London is a 2,000-year-old international commerce center where people from all nationalities and races come to conduct business in the global markets.
I could see Claudia thriving in this kind of international environment. This trip was the beginning of her escape from the gravitational pull of the entrenched white racism in Alabama that marginalizes the legitimate successes of black entrepreneurs in mainstream business.
Claudia's Road to Academic Success
Claudia attended Shades Valley High School, a public school in Irondale, Alabama which had a 50% black and 50% white student body at the time. She also enrolled in the school's prestigious Finance Academy. In 2014, Claudia graduated third in her class with a 4.4 GPA and received multiple scholarship offers.
Claudia attended the University of Miami during her 2014-15 freshman year. She transferred to the University of Alabama (UA) in the fall of 2016 and graduated from UA in the fall of 2018.
Claudia spent the summer of 2017 in Rome, Italy studying Business Management at John Cabbot University. She spent the summer of 2018 in London studying Entrepreneurship and Social Innovations at the famed London School of Economics.
In October of 2019, Claudia journeyed around the globe to acquaint herself with the best opportunities for women entrepreneurs pursuing international businesses. During this trip, Claudia strengthened her emerging business network with college friends and developed new global strategic alliances in the fast-paced world of international business.
In spirit, I traveled with Claudia through each of the eight countries she visited. Upon her return to the United States, Claudia sent me a photo book of her global tour, which had me beaming with pride as her father.
In October of 2020, Claudia started her Master's degree program at the University of Exeter and completed it on September 2nd. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Claudia's formal "in-person" graduation ceremony has been delayed until June 2022.
Headquartered in London
Claudia now lives in the booming metro-London area. This is the place she has chosen to launch her entrepreneurial career in international business. Based upon her past track-record, I have no doubt that Claudia will succeed with each business venture she launches.
I am very proud of my daughter. Claudia is a bridge-builder in the world of human relations and a mountain-climber in the world of global business. She is also the Watkins Family's newest ambassador to the international world.
Claudia's four older brothers -- Donald Watkins, Jr., Light Watkins, Drew Watkins, and Dustin Watkins -- join me and the entire Watkins family in extending our heartfelt congratulations to Claudia Rose Watkins for a job well-done. She conquered racial hatred and adversity in Alabama with her overflowing reservoir of love, intellect, class, character, and grace.
We love you Claudia, always and forever!