Lawrence David Dawkins

August 23, 1943 ~ July 16, 2020 (age 76)


Lawrence David Dawkins was born in Urbana, Arkansas, on August 23, 1943. Lawrence's childhood was spent in the Albina district of Portland, Oregon with parents Lawrence and Fannie Dawkins with his brother John.

Lawrence and his brother attended Boise and Elliot Grade School and Thomas Jefferson High School.

Lawrence (Larry) worked in the fields picking berries and beans every summer from the age 13 to earn enough money to buy his own school clothes. He worked not because he had to but because he wanted to be independent at an early age. Larry came from a long line of hard workers. Larry's father worked two jobs, one for his grandfather and one for his own family.

The Dawkins family joined the migration of families from the South and Midwest to the Pacific Coast when World War II opened defense jobs. They settled in Vanport, the second largest city in Oregon.  Larry’s father worked at Swift meat packing company. When Vanport flooded in 1948 the family moved to Portland.

Growing up, Larry and his family made many trips to Arkansas and Louisiana. He was appalled by "for white only" signs, "colored" restrooms, and the general treatment of African Americans.

Larry accepted Christ as his personal savior at the age of 12 and joined Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. With his brother John he represented the church and the NAACP to recruitment and canvassing for the 1964 African American voter registration drive in Portland.

Larry came from a long line of Baptist. Larry's great grandfather co-founded a Baptist church in 1893 in Union Parish Louisiana. This Louisiana church is still open today and holds services.

At Jefferson High School, Larry excelled in track and speech. Larry won many awards for public speaking and debate for his high school. After graduating from Jefferson High School, he attended Portland State University where he continued to excel in competition public speaking (forensics). He was one of the founders of the Albina Art Center and directed social justice plays. He was involved in the startup of several culture organizations as well.

He married Diana before was drafted into the Marine Corps where he served in the Republic of South Vietnam and the Philippines. His communication background lead to his placement as a field radio operator. After an Honorable Discharge, he returned to Portland State where he finished his bachelor’s degree and took a teaching position at Jefferson High School.  He divorced Diana and married Betty Jean Brooks on March 20, 1971. Betty was a grade school teacher. From their love and union, they welcomed two sons, Lawrence (Lawren) David Dawkins and John Lee Dawkins.

Larry completed his master’s degree in Speech at Portland State University and was the first African American to do so. In 1971, Larry then became the first African American to become a full time Speech instructor at Mount Hood Community College. He worked at Mount Hood until retirement in 2018.


During his long career at Mount Hood Community College he received many awards and honors. One of the most impressive was a call from President George Bush's White House to congratulate Larry for a national teaching excellence award.


In the 80’s Larry took a two-year leave of absence from Mount Hood to become a forensic coach at a West Virginia University. While in West Virginia, his debate team competed and won against Cambridge and Harvard.

Larry participated in many theatrical groups and help found several cultural organizations. He was a member of the NAACP and several other groups fighting for justice had the pleasure of meeting Martin Luther King Jr. Larry also gave many lectures to law enforcement on intercultural communication.

Larry and his father were joyous to see Larry's youngest son graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University. John later completed a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Portland State University.  Larry was just as happy to have attended his son’s marriage to Monica in London England, and to welcome his three grandchildren who he cherished dearly.

Larry was a high creative innovative person who was fully committed to make the nation better through communication. He was the forensics coach at Mount Hood Community College for many years. His teams were very successful competing at the national level. He was committed to helping people solve problems without violence.

Larry's curiosity could be seen as he attended three churches of different denominations to give him a better perspective on Christianity. Larry taught Seniors in Sunday School classes for many years. Larry's former Mount Hood students often stopped him on the street to explain what his classes meant to them.

Larry passed peacefully in his sleep at 3:50am July 15, 2020.

Larry was preceded in death by his father Lawrence, mother Fannie, his son Lawren, and his wife Betty. Left to celebrate his life and legacy is his youngest son John Lee Dawkins, Daughter-in-law Monica, Brother John Lee Dawkins, Uncle Jessie Dawkins, grandchildren Laurena, Davina, and Jason, many cousins from both sides of his family and friends of many years.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Lawrence David Dawkins, please visit our floral store.


Funeral Service
July 29, 2020

10:00 AM
Vancouver Ave First Baptist Church
3138 N Vancouver Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97211

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