Retiring GATEWAY leader was groundbreaking social worker
When Jacquelyn “Jackie” Davis-Fowler joined Gateway social services in 1973, the Tuskegee and University of Alabama graduate was the organization’s first African-American social work intern. Since then, she became Gateway’s first ever African-American program director, as director of residential programs, and the first on the organization’s senior management team.
More than 42 years ago, Davis-Fowler had a fresh master’s degree in social work from UA when Mary Edna Porter hired her to help transition Gateway’s residential program from an orphanage to a treatment program. She ended up also helping Gateway as it transitioned to racially integrated residential services. As for being the first so many times, she said that Gateway’s leaders supported her and repeated that “you aren’t here because you are black, but for your skills, on your own merit.”
“They empowered me, and it was a growing time for me, personally, as a professional and as a woman of color,” she said, as she counted the days down to her officially retirement Feb. 13. Although she is retiring as senior vice president of clinical and community programs, Davis-Fowler is not retiring from her profession.
Next up for the Woodlawn native is teaching social work classes as an adjunct professor at Miles College. “Teaching was something I was hoping to try for when I retired, but Miles called the same week I told my boss I was going to retire.” She already started teaching an introduction to social work policy and a class in family violence prevention to the next generation of social workers at Miles College in Fairfield.
She started her undergraduate work at Tuskegee University as a bio-chemistry major. She loved science and was good at it, but wanted to pledge a sorority and enjoy college life instead of being tied to the laboratory. An advisor suggested social work, which has become her life’s work, her on-going mission and “where God wanted me to be.”
During her four decades at Gateway, she’s seen the organization grow and expand services to Birmingham and Alabama’s children. “I’ve been here long enough to see children grow up and bring their children back to see us and say thank you. I’ve seen the amazing difference that Gateway has made in the lives of so many children and families.”
A life-long member of Williams Chapel CME Church and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority, Davis-Fowler has a grown son, Farley Jamil, and three grandchildren, Nigel, Makhi and Jalaya.
Posted on Tue, February 10, 2015
by Karin Park