On November 18, 2020, the inland region lost a valued public servant, former educator, and senior research associate, Dr. Walter Hawkins of Rialto.
Dr. Hawkins served more than 33 years as an administrator at California State University San Bernardino where he facilitated such programs as Upward Bound, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), and led the Research & Policy Analysis Office.
Under his stewardship the EOP program grew over the years from its initial two programs in Student Services to a strong Undergraduate Studies initiative housed in Academic Affairs.
In 2019 in recognition of his work and dedication to students, Hawkins was recognized as an EOP Trailblazer during California State University’s EOP 50th Anniversary celebration.
After retirement Hawkins continued serving the community and played a pivotal role in ensuring Blacks were counted in the 2020 Census. Maximum statewide effort was expended to reduce the historical undercount of Black Californians in the 2020 decennial process, and an improvement in the count over 2010 census results was notable.
The improvement, however, was not by chance. Media outlets, nonprofits, church leaders and others coalesced in a herculean effort to ensure an accurate count of Black communities despite the headwinds blowing against it fueled by the president, his administration, social unrest and the impact of COVID-19.
Before the coalition began its important work, members needed to know where to target their efforts and with 2.2 million African Americans spread across the state, it was a daunting proposition.
To better focus their work a report of where Blacks were concentrated in the state was commissioned by the Executive Director of California Black Media (CBM), Regina Wilson.
Dr. Water Hawkins
Entered, Walter Hawkins who was now a senior research associate with NewHawk, a southern California-based data collection firm. According to CBM, the report produced by Hawkins, Counting Black California, provided a county-by-county breakdown of demographic details and other data, including federal dollars apportioned to the state as well as the number of foreign-born Blacks in the state.
In addition, the report identified 8,057 census tracts in the state and rated them on a scale from 1 to 9 designating the least to the most likely to respond to the 2020 Census survey.
His report was essential to the prioritization of efforts by those who worked to ensure 2020 census participation from those in Black communities identified as “hard to count.”
Hawkins’ breakthrough work will be an enduring legacy as journalists and others will continue to refer to it when seeking to better understand and/or quantify the demographic and economic makeup of specific neighborhoods and/or regions in relation to Black communities across California.
“I’ll miss Walter so much. He was a good friend and a trusted colleague who always shot from the hip. You never had to guess what he was thinking or assume what he was feeling. I respected and valued his professionalism and brilliance as much as I appreciated his honesty, humor, kindness and grasp of Black history, particularly here in California,” said Regina Wilson, Executive Director, California Black Media.
Hawkins was also active in his local community where he served as a longstanding member of the Westside Action Group (WAG)
“Walter was a gentle giant and always wanted the best for others,” Stan Futch, WAG president said.
Joe Mayes, WAG Treasurer who also recently ran for the East Valley Water Board described Hawkins as “always a positive individual, always ready to help whenever you needed it.”
Alton Garrett, WAG member and former district director for Senator Barbara Boxer, remembered Hawkins as a good humored friend, “We always had fun talking together as I was in the military and he was a military brat. He would rub me, and I him. He gave me the nickname Curly because I don’t have any hair. Our banter was in good fun. I will miss him.”
“Walter was a storyteller with numbers as he unveiled the picture to the Black community,” Hardy Brown Sr., said of his fellow WAG member.
“He was a brilliant researcher and statistician,” said community member Beverly Jones Wright, “and a giant of a capable and caring person who poured generously into my life’s success.”
Minister Darlo Murray remembered Hawkins as “a man used by God to impact the lives of very many as a man who fought with and for the community no matter the challenges before him. Like the Apostle Paul said, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ (2Timothy 4:7).”
Those who would like to make a gift in memory of Walter Hawkins, can make a check payable to the CSUSB Philanthropic Foundation and reference Hawkins/Peacock Endowed Scholarship #P400261. Mail to: CSUSB, Attn: Terri Carlos, Office of Philanthropic Giving, 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino, CA 92407.
Donations can also be made online at www.csusb.edu/makeagift. Once on the site, follow the prompts under “I want my gift to support”, choose ‘To Select Multiple’ and then list the Hawkins/Peacock #P400261 endowment, then follow the rest of the prompts.
S.E. Williams is executive editor with the IE Voice and Black Voice News.