Barbara Dawkins doesn’t know anything about baseball. She loves Homewood, though, so she signed up to volunteer as B-league president of Homewood Baseball for the 2019 season.
“I do know how to manage people because I do that every day at work. I do know how to make assignments and make sure people do their assignments. I do know how to get the best out of people and get them to work,” Dawkins said. “Those seem to be the qualifications that I’ll need, so it should be fine.”
Her son, Giles Hardison, will be playing with the 6-year-olds, and Dawkins said it’s important to support the volunteer league so it can continue for everyone.
Dawkins’ true specialty is law, and after 20 years of litigation, she is now a supervisor of the Juvenile Justice Division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she supervises all suburban juvenile prosecutions. She is well known for helping to prosecute the case against two men convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton.
She couldn’t speak directly to her experiences in that trial, but said a case’s prominence doesn’t change her approach to litigating it.
“There are hundreds of thousands of victims of crimes that we don’t know their names. You make sure you’re doing right by them,” she said. “That’s something that transcends any case. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high-profile case, or someone people knew, or even someone people didn’t particularly care for.”
After growing up in the South Suburbs and graduating from Rich South High School, Dawkins earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Northwestern University. She went on to earn a law degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, after taking a year off to work at AT&T, selling phone systems to businesses.
“I actually needed to earn money. My parents weren’t flush with cash,” she said. “My parents paid for college, but I paid for everything else, living expenses, books.”
Dawkins’ parents, Bobby Dawkins and the late Sandra Dawkins, paid her undergraduate tuition. While they greatly encouraged her law school pursuits, paying for it was her responsibility.
Her mom first suggested to Dawkins that she might enjoy being a lawyer because she loved to write. Lawyers write quite a bit, she reasoned, and thought her daughter would enjoy the profession. From a very young age, Dawkins knew that’s what she wanted to do.
“I went in saying, ‘I’ll do anything but criminal law.’ But now I love criminal law,” she said. “I kept an open mind and was inspired by a great professor. I took every criminal law class that Vanderbilt had to offer. I went in thinking I would do something completely different than what I’ve spent the last 20 years doing.”
Dawkins no longer directly prosecutes cases, instead supervising those who do. She makes a point to visit the courtroom regularly, however, to maintain connections with judges and show her staff that she’s invested and approachable.
While she supervises her division and keeps cases moving forward, Dawkins works to instill her young staff members with the ethics they need to be effective attorneys and good people.
“I’ve spent all these years learning and developing my craft and now I’m at a point where I can give back to the legal community with the people I supervise,” she said. “I’m molding and mentoring young attorneys to be honest. Doing what is right, even when it’s difficult. Doing what is right even when people aren’t looking. Being knowledgeable of the law. Being empathetic to others.”
When her husband, Maurice Hardison, died in 2014 from cardiac complications, Dawkins became a single mother. She cares for Giles, a sweet boy who loves trains; and her father lives with them now in their Homewood home.
In addition to her responsibilities with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, her family and now with Homewood Baseball, Dawkins has been a trustee with the Homewood Village Board for 10 years, supporting the town she loves.
Despite being able to “live anywhere I want right now,” she chooses to stay in Homewood.
“I think it’s really important to have close ties to my community,” she said. “You want to be in a good community, but what are you going to do to make it a good community?”