Dorothy Elizabeth Watson
Sunrise: June 4, 1910 – Sunset: July 25, 2010
Dorothy Elizabeth Watson was born January 4, 1910, in Chicago, Illinois to Belle and James Lyle O’Neal. Dorothy was the third of eight children. She was preceded in death by her parents and seven brothers and sisters.
Her parents moved West to improve the educational opportunities for their children. Their western trek took over seven years, which included a stop in Oklahoma where three of her siblings were born. Because Mr. O’Neal could not tolerate the climate in Los Angeles, he moved the family to Watts so that he could farm. At age 7, Dorothy was helping him sell vegetables off the back of his truck.
The move to Watts did not resolve the asthmatic condition of Mr. O’Neal. Consequently, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona to enjoy a drier climate with other relatives. His health improved dramatically, which prompted him to anxiously rejoin his family in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, within two weeks of his return, he succumbed to his illness.
After his death, Dorothy’s mother, Belle, a surgical nurse at Los Angeles General Hospital, left Dorothy in charge of her younger sisters and brothers. She literally ran the household, with the full responsibility of getting her siblings (including herself) off to school. While living in Watts, Dorothy graduated from Compton High School. The family moved back to the central Los Angeles area, where her younger siblings graduated from Jefferson High School.
With a strong orientation toward higher education, Dorothy enrolled in the new Los Angeles City College with an admission number of 1003, thus making her the third student ever to enroll. She joined the Ivy Leafs, intending to join Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, inspired to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Juanita Raboin, founder of Alpha Gamma Chapter at UCLA. However, she met a tall good-looking “Dandy” from Kansas City–Bill Watson, whom she married shortly before he became one of the first African American police officers in the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four children: Barbara, Diane, William, and Patricia.
As the daughter of one of the organizers of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Dorothy personally accepted Christ at an early age. Her beautiful voice made her a “natural” for the Choir, but other gifts and talents also emerged. Dorothy performed with the Hall Johnson Theater Group as a featured actress at the Mayan Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. She and her sister also specialized in reciting the famous poems of John Paul Dunbar at the San Francisco World’s Fair in the 1930’s. Fortunately, she was at the Los Angeles County hospital in 1932, when the Olympic officials came through and announced that all mothers who were ready to deliver would receive tickets to the Olympics. Newborn baby Barbara was able to attend this great event along with her mother.
During World War II, as a single mother, Dorothy went to work at the Terminal Annex U.S. Post Office where she worked as a postal clerk for the next 34 years. She put all of her children through college and returned to graduate from Los Angeles City College (LACC) with Patsy, her youngest child, in 1958. Dorothy, along with Barbara and Diane, built a 10-unit garden apartment building, where the family lived until moving away to their individual homes. In the late 1990’s, Dorothy, now long retired, and her sister, Pauline, moved into the home of her daughter, Diane, where she would remain.
Dorothy became a Methodist and was one of the organizers of Holman United Methodist Church where she was an active member until her health failed. As a faithful member of the Stovall Foundation, she presided over the Cotillion, the souvenir booklet, membership drives, and much more. In full support of her AKA daughters, she became a member of the Las Madrinas and performed often in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Chorus combined with the Delta Choraliers. She traveled extensively by land, on cruises and via airlines, throughout Europe, Africa, Bermuda, and Mainland China before accompanying Ambassador Diane Watson to her seated position at the Embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia. For the Swearing-In Ceremony, Dorothy was honored to hold the Bible along with President Clinton’s brother, Roger, who immediately adopted her as his surrogate mom because of the recent death of his own beloved mother.
Dorothy was always at the side of her children and an integral part of the numerous family celebrations. She was always so proud of their many accomplishments. In January 2010, she celebrated her 100th birthday in grand splendor, surrounded by her children, grands, greatgrands, great-great grands, along with many family members and loving friends.
Dorothy Elizabeth Watson passed peacefully early Sunday morning, July 25, 2010 at the Bella Vista Hospital in Pasadena, California. Her oldest daughter, Barbara Coleman in 1994, preceded her in death. The full and rich life of Dorothy Elizabeth Watson will be remembered and cherished by her remaining three children: Congresswoman Diane E. Watson, William “Billy Boy” Watson and Patricia “Patsy” Bradfield (David); grandchildren: William, Ryan, Cesiley, Calysta, Niles, Alexys, Chetera, Iris, Mallory, Kim, Lynn (Darrel), Bradford (Nicole), Sharrolan, Christalyn (Joseph); and great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews and many beloved friends.
The funeral service will be held on Monday, August 2, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.; Holman United Methodist Church. Internment will be held at Inglewood Cemetery. For additional information contact Lois Hill Hale, Press Secretary to Congresswoman Diane E. Watson at 323-965-1422.