Reflections on 2018
Updated: Dec 31, 2018
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on December 30, 2018
As 2018 comes to an end, I have reflected on what made this year special in my life. The answer was relatively simple -- this was the year I learned who my true friends are.
As a public figure, I have always had a lot of “sunshine” friends who bask in the warm glow of the privileges and benefits that came with our friendship. After federal prosecutors indicted my son and me on trumped up wire and bank fraud charges in November, my true friends made themselves known to me in a very public way. They embraced and comforted me. My “sunshine” friends fled.
I want to acknowledge and thank Laurie Beth Johnson Kesterson, Cindy Rondini, Frank Franklin, Lisa Swoboda, Georgia Slade, Tanya Butts, Todd Atkinson, Carla Vann Nettles, Liz Moe, Lisa Sharlach, Michael Goddard, Barry Sussman, Sherri Mccrary, Cathy Schadel, David “The Meck” Meckley, Julie Meyer Potter, Sally Henderson, Lorene Von Allman, Cheryl McWhorter, Lisa Choate Falchetti, Marvin Kennedy, Christianna Epps Wheeler, Jack Barber, Annette Knight-Russell, Rex Lane Miller, Gail Rhodes Shelton, Mark Englehart, Kevin Jacobs-Muhammad, Richard Pope, Janet H. Hinton, and a host of other true friends from all walks of life who publicly and proudly defended my name and character in the face of an orchestrated smear campaign by “rogue” federal prosecutors and vindictive federal regulatory agencies.
These friends are leaders and bridge-builders in diverse communities across America. They have also taught me a lot about life and the importance of understanding the things that united us. I am a better person because of their presence in my life.
They have joined old friends like Buford Crutcher, Doyal Reed, Frederick Burks, Joseph Cole, Lawrence Conaway, Monte Boone (my cousin), Grace Rose (my high school girlfriend), Albert Turner Jr., Wallace Nathan Bailey, Paul Joseph Adams III, Tameka Wren, George Hill, Eric Majors, Gregory D. Jones, Keith Rice, Tammy Knight, John Knight, Jr., John Powe, Charlie Newton, Kenneth Thomas, Milton Davis, and others who have publicly stood with me through the years as we have fought to (a) rid Alabama of public corruption, (b) end spousal abuse, (c) stop preferential treatment for rich special interest groups in the halls of government power, (d) curb the sexual abuse of women and children, (e) promote equal opportunity in the work place for men and women, (f) strive toward equal justice for rich and poor Americans alike, and (g) advance society's respect for man/womankind.
Along the way, I have lost what I thought were close friendships with people I admired, respected and helped in so many ways. These friendships include three high-profile individuals I kept out of prison by working diligently on their criminal cases at great risk of harm to my family and me. In the end, they were not strong enough to handle the pressure others placed on them for being my friend.
Another friendship I lost in 2018 is the one I shared with AL.com columnist John Archibald, whom I have known and admired for more than three decades. I watched John file for bankruptcy in 2003 and then lie about it when it was publicly revealed in 2011. Yet, I kept John in my friendship circle. I also watched John take my exclusive series of investigative reports about the secret love affair between Governor Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason titled “Forbidden Love” and “Executive Betrayal” and win a Pulitzer Prize with this copyrighted material, even though he became aware of this sex scandal when I did and refused to write about it until it was safe to do so six months later. Yet, I forgave John for repackaging my story and taking credit for it on national TV. I finally lost John Archibald as a friend on November 29, 2018 when he made up a fake racist quotation about “kicking white people’s ass” and attributed this quote to me in order to help prosecutors in my criminal case sway whites in the jury pool against me. To this day, Archibald has not admitted fabricating this racist quotation, nor apologized for doing so.
Endings Become Beginnings
Grace Rose provided this quotation from Brené Brown that best describes my mission as 2018 ends and 2019 begins: “Our job is not to deny the story, but to DEFY the ending -- to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, 'Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.'" I could not agree more.
We will not let our adversaries define who we are. They do not care about the truth. They only care about themselves and their narrow-minded, self-serving personal and political agendas. We will use the platform they have given us to define ourselves to a world that is hungry for truth.
In the words of Liz Moe, we will “[k]ick ass and take names” in 2019.
PHOTO: My friendship motto.