The Love Between a Father and His Children
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on July 25, 2019
Last week, Alabama Media Group reporter/columnist Kyle Whitmire published an article that said I should have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in my case in order to save my son, Donald, Jr., from prosecution. Here is Whitmire’s exact quote:
“This is the thing you won’t find in any court record, in any grand jury testimony or any deposition, but rest assured it’s true: Watkins Sr. could have made a deal. He could have gone to the U.S. Attorney’s office and made a plea for less time, and he could have negotiated an important condition — you don’t touch my son.”
In making his declaration about what "you won't find in any court record," Whitmire never explained how he got access to secret "grand jury testimony" in order to support this bold pronouncement. Because grand jury testimony is secret and sealed, only prosecutors and federal law enforcement agents could have provided the contents of grand jury testimony to Whitmire. Remember, Whitmire also knew about my sealed indictment before I did.
Setting aside Whitmire’s COINTELPRO status as a "friendly" news media source for state and federal law enforcement agencies who seek to demonize the "targets" of their investigations, one of my strongest supporters asked me to address the topic of an African-American father’s love for his children. I agreed to do so in this article.
We Love and Parent Our Children
From the day Olivia Williamson and William Carmichael (my maternal great-grand parents) married in Crawford Station, Mississippi on March 25, 1865 and subsequently parented their nine children, every generation of Carmichael/Watkins family members has raised their children in two-parent households. For five generations, every child in this family has been protected from physical and psychological harm and has been inspired to achieve educational excellence.
As a result of this hands-on parenting model, Olivia and William Carmichael's core values of respect for humanity, self-reliance, educational excellence, equal opportunity for all, and unselfish community service have been passed down to every new generation within the family. This is why there have been teachers and principals, college professors and presidents, doctors and nurses, lawyers and judges, biomedical innovators and surgeons, mathematicians and inventors, concert pianists, bankers, entrepreneurs, engineers, authors, government officials, and a host of other professions represented in our family for over one hundred and fifty-four years.
One of these descendants, Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., became a world-famous heart surgeon and associate dean at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Today, more than three million people worldwide are walking around with implantable defibrillators that were developed by the pioneering medical research of Drs. Michel Mirowski, Morton Mower, William Staewen, and Levi Watkins, Jr. This device prevents sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.
Levi, Jr. implanted the first defibrillator in 1980 at a time when many white Johns Hopkins University Hospital cardiac patients did not want a black heart surgeon, who had been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine, to perform life-saving surgery on them. Levi overlooked their bigotry, loved them as human beings, and saved their lives anyway.
Watkins family members have overcome incredible odds and navigated a vast sea of racial bigotry since slavery in America ended in 1865. We have had to protect our children from unimaginable threats of bodily harm flowing from their courageous action in integrating schools, libraries, public parks, swimming pools, colleges, graduate schools, medical schools, law schools, and places of work. In the early 1930s, some of our family members in Mississippi had to physically protect a young male family member from a small posse of angry white men who wanted to snatch this boy from his home, lynch him, castrate him, and burn his body. These family members had to quickly abandon all of their belongings and hastily flee the state in the aftermath of this nightmarish incident.
In my own childhood, I have been spat on by strangers, cursed by segregationists, verbally abused and demeaned by white police officers and judges, pelted with rocks by white teenagers, harassed by white college students, unfairly penalized by law school classmates and professors, and threatened with death on countless occasions solely because I strove to break down color barriers during the course of my life.
After I became a successful and prolific civil rights attorney in Alabama, my children became the targets of threats of bodily harm and death. Every time I won a landmark case, the death threats ratcheted up to seemingly unbearable levels. In the midst of it all, my family always found a way to protect my children.
Our Children Are Our Assets
This brings me back to Kyle Whitmire and his suggestion that I should have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in my case in order to save my son, Donald, Jr., from prosecution. This “brain fart” was obviously the product of Whitmire’s collaboration with the Government and his stereotypical view of African-American families.
In Whitmire’s mind, 35% of African-American children are raised in a two-parent home, as compared to 76% of white children. The other 65% of black children are raised in a single-parent household headed by their mother or another female relative. More often than not, the children in single-parent households, whether white or black, have limited interaction with their biological fathers. Research studies have shown that children raised in “father-absent” single-parent households tend to experience more physical and psychological problems when compared to those raised in two-parent households.
The absence of a father in a child’s life contributes to psychosocial problems in the following areas: (a) perceived abandonment, (b) attachment issues, (c) child abuse, (d) childhood obesity, (e) criminal justice involvement, (f) gang involvement, (g) mental health issues, (h) poor school performance, (i) poverty and homelessness; and (j) substance use.
Prior to Donald, Jr.’s indictment last November, none of my children had any issue in these psychosocial areas. In the Watkins family, our children are our assets. Based upon our family background and history in America, we do not fit Whitmire's stereotypical view of an African-American family.
Those who have followed my collective body of work in the civil rights arena in Alabama and my investigative journalism on controversial topics that mainstream reporters like Kyle Whitmire will not touch (until it is safe to do so) know exactly why I was indicted. To them, a highly politicized Department of Justice has no "presumed" credibility. They also know the tactical reason why Donald, Jr. was dragged into the criminal case when he was never a defendant in the companion civil case filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission three years ago. They know Donald, Jr. and I are innocent of the charges against us. Finally, they know what coded message is being sent to the larger community by our persecution.
For the record, Donald, Jr. wasted no time in smacking down Kyle Whitmire, who knows absolutely nothing about the Watkins family and its five-generation legacy in America. Donald, Jr., posted his response to Whitmire on his Facebook page.
Now, Kyle Whitmire and his COINTELPRO allies in Alabama know the following things about the Watkins family and the love we have for our children: (a) we take care of our own, (b) Watkins men never surrender their manhood to anybody, (c) we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees, (d) “a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent,” (e) we “don’t take criticism from people we would never go to for advice,” and (f) we have always conquered seemingly insurmountable odds in life.
This is who we are and what we do in the Watkins family. There is nothing Kyle Whitmire or the U.S. Government can do to erase this legacy.
PHOTO: My five children: From left to right, Donald, Jr., Claudia, Light, Donald, Sr., Drew, and Dustin.