Augustus Freeman Hawkins (August 31, 1907 – November 10, 2007) was a prominent American Democratic Party politician and a figure in the history of Civil Rights and organized labor. Over the course of his career, Hawkins authored more than 300 state and federal laws, the most famous of which are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act. He was known as the "silent warrior" for his commitment to education and ending unemployment. Hawkins emphasized throughout his career that “the leadership belongs not to the loudest, not to those who beat the drums or blow the trumpets, but to those who day in and day out, in all seasons, work for the practical realization of a better world—those who have the stamina to persist and remain dedicated." Hawkins remained devoted to this principle throughout his life, dedicating himself to reform.
Hawkins was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the youngest of five children, to Nyanza Hawkins and Hattie Freeman. In 1918, the family moved to Los Angeles. Hawkins graduated from Jefferson High School in 1926, and received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1931. After graduation, he planned to study civil engineering, but the financial constraints of the Great Depression made this impossible. This contributed towards his interest in politics, and his lifelong devotion to education. After graduating, Hawkins operated a real estate company with his brother and studied government. While serving in the California State Assembly, Hawkins married Pegga Adeline Smith on August 28, 1945. Smith died in 1966, and Hawkins later married Elsie Taylor in 1977.
Hawkins was part of a more general shift by African Americans away from the Republican and towards the Democratic Party. Unlike the majority of African Americans, he supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign for president in 1932. Hawkins favored measures such as the New Deal, which was wildly popular in the United States at large and the African American community in particular. Roosevelt would go on to be the first Democratic president to win the black vote, in 1936. In 1934, Hawkins supported the more controversial 1934 California gubernatorial election of Upton Sinclair, a socialist. Although Sinclair lost, Hawkins defeated Republican Frederick Madison Roberts, the great-grandson of Sally Hemings and President Thomas Jefferson and the first African American in the California State Assembly. Hawkins would serve as a Democratic member of the Assembly from 1935 until 1963, by the time of his departure being the most senior member, like Roberts before him.