Dawkins, who served the city of Fayetteville for 25 years as a councilman and mayor, died at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized over the weekend.
He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, but the disease went into remission for several years. He disclosed in 1998 that his disease had returned and that he faced months of chemotherapy at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
We never wanted to give up, because we knew that every time he'd pull through," said Dawkins' daughter Dawn Caison.
Throughout his chemotherapy, Dawkins continued to fight his disease and the reputation of a worn-out downtown.
"He was constantly working to have Fayetteville cleaned up. He was a behind-the-scenes type of leader. He tried to get the council together on issues," says Mayor Pro Tem Milo McBryde.
1n 1998 a divided City Council came together to honor its leader. A newly-restored part of downtown was named Dawkins Plaza, in honor of the Mayor. The plaque there reads:"J.L. Dawkins' powerful devotion to service for all citizens of Fayetteville is strongly demonstrated by his quarter century of humble public service. His intense love of people and of his city motivated him to strive for quality development and beautification of his beloved community. The profound passion of J.L. Dawkins for his city is evident in his untiring endeavors to make Fayetteville a better place for all."
Dawkins won his seventh two-year term as mayor in November, with almost 75 percent of the vote.
"I think J.L. brought a sense of family and belonging to the city of Fayetteville, no matter how big we've become. He was always very concerned with one-on-one and being your friend," said councilman Nat Robertson. "We're going to miss him for that."
The City Council meeting normally scheduled for Tuesday evening was canceled so the city could mourn.
Dawkins had not attended a City Council meeting since February, but up until the day of his death, he continued to work from home.
In January, 1999 Dawkins told WRAL, "It's important to be needed. In other words, I know that -- whether it's a city manager or one of the council members saying, 'I really want to run this thing by you' -- that kind of fires you up. My gosh, that has a lot to do with the attitude and getting better."
Dawkins was first elected Fayetteville's mayor in 1987 and served on the city council for 12 years before that.
Dawkins is the son of Johnny L. Dawkins, who served Cumberland County as a member of the General Assembly.
Born in Cumberland County on Nov. 25, 1935, Dawkins vowed as a young boy to follow his father's footsteps into politics. At age 12 he proclaimed that he would someday be Mayor of Fayetteville.
Dawkins is survived by wife Mary Anne Evans, son John L. Dawkins III, daughter, Dawn Marie Caison, and four grandchildren.
McBryde will serve as Fayetteville's mayor until the city council makes a more permanent decision.
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