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James D. Watkins

man with glasses, gray blazer and graying beard

James Darnell Watkins, D.D.S., of Hampton, Virginia, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech in 1971. He went on to earn a doctor of dental surgery degree in 1975 from the Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical College of Virginia Dental School (becoming their 5th African-American graduate). An accomplished general and family dentist, Watkins has been practicing dentistry for over 45 years. His career began as an active-duty officer in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps, where he went on to serve for 22 years in the U.S. Navy Reserves, retiring as a Captain in 2002.

Throughout his career, he has held multiple leadership positions and broken many barriers, including having the unique distinction of serving as the first African-American to be president of the Virginia State Board of Dentistry, where he served five 4-year terms. Watkins also held positions with the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation and served as Secretary of the Old Dominion Dental Society for 30 years. He has attained Fellowships in the Academy of General Dentistry, the American College of Den-tists, the International College of Dentists, and the Virginia Dental Association. 

Widely recognized for his contributions to the dental profession and beyond, he has been honored with many awards, including the recipient of the 2022 Virginia Tech Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award, the 2022 Old Dominion Dental Society’s Dentist of the Year Award, the 2010 Virginia Tech “Most Influential Black Alumnus” Award, and the 2010 Harry Lyons Outstand-ing Alumnus Award from VCU-MCV Dental School. 

Watkins has been involved with several professional and civic organizations, including the Southern Regional Testing Agency, the American Association of Dental Boards, and the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. He is a member of the Hampton Roads Graduate Chapter of Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Inc. and First Baptist Church Morrison, Newport News, Vir-ginia. Watkins has served on the Minority Advisory Committee for the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion committee, and is a member of Virginia Tech’s Pylon Society.