Miller Dawkins, despite his crimes, was an African-American hero

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke remembers Miami Commissioner Miller Dawkins, who died early this month.

One of Miller Dawkins's legacies is Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City, which was directly across the street from his house. I always found it interesting that he pushed to install an Olympic-size pool at Hadley when most of the people in the community wanted a recreation building and a football stadium. But Dawkins wanted kids to be versatile beyond popular sports like football and basketball. In addition to the pool, Dawkins made sure Hadley Park got some of the most beautiful tennis courts in Miami-Dade County. He believed tennis and swimming would broaden kids' horizons. He was always looking out for the children. It didn't matter if they were black, white, or Hispanic.

He made that pool so that everyone in the city of Miami could use it. He wanted whites and Hispanics to come to Hadley, which is happening to this day. You have people from all over Miami using that pool.

Anytime I went to Miami City Hall to meet with him about supporting the Liberty City Optimist Club, Dawkins came through for the program and the kids. He was there for the elderly too, ensuring that the senior center at Hadley was built. His wife still plays an instrumental role on the seniors' board at Hadley Park. She is leading the charge to keep his legacy going.

If it wasn't for Dawkins, Miami would not have had its first African-American police chief, its first African-American city attorney, its first African-American city clerk, and its first African-American city manager. But he had the respect of everyone. He was elected city commissioner at a time when there were no single-member districts.

Just like every other commissioner from Miami's District 5, he got into trouble. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to taking $30,000 in bribes and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. Yet the good Dawkins did for the community outweighs the bad.

Remember, there is only one black on the city commission, and there has never been a black mayor. In the black community, people saw Dawkins as the underdog fighting the establishment. When he got out of prison, you would never have known he had been gone and that he was no longer the commissioner. For the folks living in District 5, Miller Dawkins was a hero.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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