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Donald V. Watkins

Lawyer and entrepreneur Donald V. Watkins was born on September 8, 1948 in Parsons, Kansas to Dr. Levi Watkins, Sr. and Lillian Bernice Varnado Watkins. Watkins graduated from the Alabama State University Laboratory School in Montgomery, Alabama in 1966. He then went on to receive his B.A. degree in 1970 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Watkins was awarded a Herbert Lehman Scholarship by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and earned his J.D. degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1973.

Following his graduation from the University of Alabama, Watkins joined the law office of Fred D. Gray, Rosa Parks’ attorney in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1979, he opened his own office in Birmingham, Alabama and became the youngest person ever elected to the Birmingham City Council, which he served on until 1983. From 1985 until 1999, Watkins served as Special Counsel to the Mayor of Birmingham, Richard Arrington, Jr. During his distinguished legal career, Watkins handled a number of landmark cases, including, Sidney Williams v. The City of Montgomery, Alabama in 1975, SCLC v. The City of Gadsen, Alabama in 1978, U.S. v. Richard Arrington, Jr. in 1991, and U.S. v. U.W. Clemon in 1996. In 1996 Watkins founded Watkins Pencor, a global energy investment company. In 2000, he co-founded Alamerica Bank in Birmingham. In 2002, he gained national attention when he attempted to purchase a Major League Baseball team. In total, he inquired about purchasing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Montreal Expos, the Minnesota Twins, and the Anaheim Angels. Watkins also co-founded Nabirm Energy Services Ltd. In Windhoek, Namibia in 2011.

Watkins has been an active member of his community throughout his career. He served as chairman and CEO of Masada Resource Group, LLC, as well as chairman of Alamerica Bank. Watkins also served on the board of directors of State Mutual Insurance Company in Rome, Georgia, and as a trustee for Alabama State University. He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Watkins has five children.

Donald V. Watkins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 1, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.089

Sex

Male

Interview Date

05/01/2017

Last Name

Watkins

Maker Category
Middle Name

V.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Alabama State University Laboratory School

Alabama State Laboratory High School

Southern Illinois University

University of Alabama School of Law

First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

Parsons

HM ID

WAT16

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bogota

Favorite Quote

I'd rather walk on my feet, die on my feet, than live on my knees.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

9/8/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Birmingham

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Hamburgers

Short Description

Lawyer and entrepreneur Donald V. Watkins (1948 - ) served as special counsel to the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama from 1985 to 1999 and was chairman and CEO of Masasda Resources Group, LLC

Favorite Color

Sky blue

Dr. Levi Watkins

Distinguished surgeon Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., was born on June 13, 1944, in Parsons, Kansas, the third of six children; his father, Levi Watkins, Sr., was a college professor who became president of Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama. After graduating as valedictorian from the Alabama State Laboratory High School, Watkins entered Tennessee State University, majoring in biology and further developing his interests in political science and civil rights. After graduating with honors from Tennessee State in 1966, Watkins became the first African American to be admitted to and to graduate from Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine.

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Watkins started a general surgery residency at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 1971, where he was the first black chief resident of cardiac surgery. Watkins continued his professional career by conducting cardiac research at the Harvard Medical School of Physiology from 1973-1975. At Harvard, Watkins investigated the relationship between congestive heart failure and the renin angiotensis system. After returning to Johns Hopkins, Watkins was a cardiothoracic surgery fellow from 1976 to 1978; he became a full-time faculty member in 1978 in the Division of Cardiac Surgery, joining the medical school admissions committee a year later.

In 1980, Watkins performed the world’s first human implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator; he also developed the cardiac arrhythmia service at Johns Hopkins. Watkins did research on coronary heart disease in African Americans through the Minority Health Commission and Panel for Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery; because of this work on behalf of minority students he was appointed to the National Board of the Robert Wood Johnson Minority Faculty Development Program in 1983.

In 1991, Watkins was promoted to full professor of cardiac surgery and dean for Postdoctoral Programs and Faculty Development at Johns Hopkins. In these positions, Watkins revolutionized postdoctoral education in America by helping to establish the nation’s first postdoctoral association. In 1992, Vanderbilt University established a Professorship and Associate Deanship in Dr. Watkins’s name to honor his work for diversity in medical education.

Watkins received honorary degrees from Sojourner Douglass-College (1988), Meharry Medical College (1989), Spelman College (1996), and Morgan State University (1997); his other professional affiliations included the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. Watkins has been the recipient of numerous accolades over the years, including the Vanderbilt Medal of Honor (1998), the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Heritage Award (1999). In 2000, Watkins was honored by the Guidant Corporation for pioneering work on the automatic defibrillator.

Dr. Watkins passed away on April 11, 2015 at the age of 70.

Levi Watkins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 5, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.044

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/5/2007

Last Name

Watkins

Schools

Alabama State Laboratory High School

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Tennessee State University

First Name

Levi

Birth City, State, Country

Parsons

HM ID

WAT09

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Nice, France

Favorite Quote

Give Me The Courage To Change The Things I Can. Give Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Can't Change And The Wisdom To Know The Difference.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Birth Date

6/13/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Fried Fish

Death Date

4/11/2015

Short Description

Medical professor and cardiac surgeon Dr. Levi Watkins (1944 - 2015 ) was a professor of cardiac surgery and dean for Postdoctoral Programs and Faculty Development at John Hopkins University. He performed the world’s first human implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator in 1980, and established the nation's first postdoctoral association.

Employment

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Harvard University School of Medicine

Favorite Color

Blue, Black, Gold

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Levi Watkins' interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers his neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers the Alabama State Laboratory School in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his upbringing in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers integrating the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls his social life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his graduation from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls his research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers mentoring black students at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls designing the implantable cardioverter defibrillator

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers operating on his father

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers his relationship with his father

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the mentorship of Vivien Thomas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the Robert Wood Minority Faculty Development Program

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his board memberships

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his mentors

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Johns Hopkins Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his awards, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers being assaulted at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls being the subject of 'A Dream Fulfilled'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his awards, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the Levi Watkins Professorship at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins shares his advice to aspiring physicians

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about affirmative action

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the role of religion in the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon his values

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his mentorship of young people

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins narrates his photographs