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The Kirby File: Mayor pro tem, councilwoman bid farewell to City Council

'My Dad is my hero': Johnny Dawkins remembers his late father, J.L. Dawkins, the longest-serving mayor in Fayetteville history.


You could sense his heart in this moment of farewell.

Call it, if you wish, the long goodbye.

“So, today marks the end of 75 years,” Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Dawkins would say Monday night at what would be his final Fayetteville City Council meeting at City Hall, and likely brings an exclamation point to the Dawkins political lineage in this city.

He would glance toward the wall with photographs of so many of our city mayors, including his late father, J.L. Dawkins, the longest-serving mayor in city history with seven terms from 1987 to 2000, ending when the elder Dawkins died in office at age 64 on May 30, 2000.

“My dad is my hero,” Johnny Dawkins would say about his father, who served six terms as a city councilman from 1975 to 1987 before assuming the city gavel and becoming known as the “Mayor for Life” in this town J.L. Dawkins so affectionately called home.

He would remind us of his grandfather, Johnnie L. Dawkins Sr., who lost the 1947 mayoral race to Charlies Rose Jr., but was elected to the N.C. House in 1948 and served until his death at age 43 on June 8, 1951.

“My Dad’s hero was his dad,” Johnny Dawkins would say. “But also my Dad’s hero was my daughter, Jill, who’s an amazing miracle” — and cancer survivor.

He would remind us of  his great uncle, Charles Rankin Dawkins, who served as the N.C. Highway commissioner from 1968 to 1972 under Gov. Bob Scott, and his uncle, Robert Hamilton Dawkins, who served as a city school board member from 1970 to 1974.

“Then I got elected,” Johnny Dawkins, 64, says about serving as the Dist. 9 councilman from 2003 to 2005, and since 2017 to this year for Dist. 5 — a seat he will relinquish to Lynne Bissette Greene next week, on Dec. 6, when the 61-year-old Greene takes the district seat after soundly defeating Dawkins by more than 20% on Nov. 7 in one of the more contentious council races in recent history.

She claimed he voted to raise property taxes.

Dawkins said he never voted to raise property taxes — ever.

He claimed “dirty politics” on Greene’s part and pleaded with Dist. 5 voting residents not to “believe Lynne’s lies.”

No place, Dawkins said, for “dirty politics.” But by 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 7, Greene was triumphant, and Dawkins would be looking at the end of his political career, saying he plans to relocate to Wake County.

He was gracious Monday night, with the Dist. 5 councilwoman-elect sitting within just feet from Dawkins.

“The person replacing me will do a great job,” Dawkins would say. “She is a hard worker from a great family, and I'm honored to turn this seat over — the people’s seat — to her. But 75 years comes to a close tonight.”

He would leave a parting thought.

“Whether it was Marshall Pitts 20 years ago as our first African American mayor or as it is now Mitch Colvin, our second African American mayor,  I've served with both of them and both gentlemen have been committed to working together for Fayetteville to be a beacon across our country of how Blacks and whites can work together,” Dawkins would say. “We are a melting pot, our city. The only other city in the United States that rivals us is New York City .”

‘Make some noise’

Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram would bid her farewell after serving two terms as the Dist. 2 representative before being ousted on Nov. 7, when 28-year-old Malik Davis won by an overwhelming 30% of Dist. 2 votes cast.

She didn’t bring the political pedigree to the council from her beginnings in 2019, and her inexperience often was evident. She was opinionated and wasn’t afraid to joust with Mayor Mitch Colvin or the mayor pro tem or any other council member.

“When I initially joined this board, the journey was challenging,” Ingram, 32, would say. “I encountered a long-standing council that was bent on the old ways, asserting that achieving anything in one term is impossible.”

Ingram said she arrived on the council with a receptive ear to Dist. 2 constituents and Dist. 2 neighborhoods.

“Their councilwoman who not only listened, who not only showed up,” she would say, “but the councilwoman that delivered.”

Ingram may have enjoyed her finest moment on June 16 for the unveiling of the Civil Rights Trail marker on Green Street that commemorates May of 1963, when so many young Fayetteville State University students protested downtown during the Civil Rights movement.

She was passionate and heartfelt in remembering former FSU chancellor Willis McLeod, the Rev. C.R. Edwards, Aaron Johnson, Marion George, Joann Adams, Scipio Burton, Herbert Vick, Stanley W. Johnson and Cumberland County Commissioner Jeannette Council for standing tall for the Black community in those tumultuous days.

Ingram could be combative, too, particularly in council meetings. She could hold on to an issue of discussion ad nauseum and once was censured by the council for criticism at a Dec. 6, 2021, work session.

“This is the most corrupt-(expletive) board I have ever served on,” Ingram said at the conclusion of the work session.

It was the second censure of a council member within a month to include Johnny Dawkins’ blowup toward then-Councilwoman Yvonne Kinston at a Nov. 9 council meeting. 

Ingram said she came on the council that would be tested by the Covid-19 health pandemic and later the Market House downtown protests of May 30, 2020, a result of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a white police officer.

“I stand here before you today with gratitude in my  heart and a deep sense of appreciation,” Ingram would say. “It has been a privilege serving District 2 in the city of Fayetteville over the past four years… I want to express my sincere thanks and love to the residents who have entrusted me with the responsibility of serving this community. Your support has truly been the fuel that powered this journey.”

No matter how many times you may be gaveled or told no or your mic is shut off, she said, you must push forward.

“I've witnessed when it becomes disheartening when disagreements arise and certain interactions fall short of the respect that we owe one another,” Ingram would say. “However, in those moments, that is when our commitment to service is tested. To remember our why is essential to rise above and to continue to serve with integrity.”

And never be afraid, she would say,  “to make some noise,” when speaking up and speaking out is necessary.


Johnny Dawkins leaves local politics as likely the last of the Dawkins political lineage in this city.

“We are grateful for your time, energy and passion you invested in making our community a better place for everyone,” Mayor Mitch Colvin would write the outgoing mayor pro tem. “Your legacy of service will undoubtedly inspire future leaders and leave a lasting positive imprint on our city.”

As for you, Councilwoman Ingram, you were a miserable failure when it came to returning media inquiries, and hopefully some of your fellow council members can learn from the error of your ways.

But we’ll have to give you credit where credit is due.

You never were afraid “to make some noise” when you believed.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.