July 30th - Politics - Participation in the Political System - Panelists

In “Politics – Participation in the Political System,” a panel of concerned community and civic leaders will discuss the importance of political engagement at all levels of our democracy. Topics include voter registration, voting rights, voter suppression, running for elected office, and strategies for holding elected officials accountable. 

Special thanks to our community partners: The Winston-Salem Chronicle; Entercom/97.1 QMG; and

The Alpha Pi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

  • Walter Holton - Moderator, Attorney, Holton Law Firm, Winston-Salem, NC

    Walter Holton served as the United States Attorney, Middle District of North Carolina, under President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno from 1994 to 2001, serving as a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. He previously served as Chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party from 1989 to 1991, and as an Assistant District Attorney from 1985 to 1987.  A native of Winston-Salem, Mr. Holton also worked in the Scheduling and Advance Office of Vice President Walter Mondale in 1979-1980, as well as Vice President Mondale’s 1984 Presidential campaign.  He currently works as an attorney at the Holton Law Firm in Winston-Salem. 

  • Justice Pat Timmons-Goodson, first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of NC and in 2014 was appointed by President Obama to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights

    Pat Timmons-Goodson grew up the oldest of six children in a military family. Her father was an Army Airborne Ranger stationed at Fort Bragg. Pat graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and went on to earn law degrees from both UNC and Duke. Pat served as an assistant district attorney before spending most of her career as a judge, eventually becoming the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of North Carolina. In 2014, the president appointed her to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where she made recommendations to Congress and the White House on matters like excessive use of force by police, coal ash spills, and voting rights.


    Pat and her husband live in Fayetteville where they raised their two children, and they are active in their church.

  • John Dinan, Ph.D., Professor of Politics and International Studies, Wake Forest University

    John Dinan is a professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University.  He teaches courses on political parties and elections, the U.S. Congress, and state governments and politics.  Dinan is the author of several books, including State Constitutional Politics: Governing by Amendment in the American States (2018) and The American State Constitutional Tradition (2006), as well as numerous journal articles, book chapters, and essays, including a recent essay analyzing "The Emergency Powers of State Governments and Governors in the U.S. Federal System."  He is also the editor of Publius: The Journal of Federalism, an academic journal that focuses on publishing research regarding the role of state and federal governments in the U.S. as well as other federal countries around the world.  He makes regular appearances and provides comment for local, state, national, and international news outlets. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia.      

  • Harvey Gantt, architect, and former mayor of Charlotte, NC (elected in 1983 as the city's first black mayor); also, the first African-American student admitted to Clemson University

    Harvey Gantt is a native of Charleston, SC. In 1963, he became the first African American to enter Clemson University and in 1965 was the first African American to graduate from Clemson.  Gantt served three terms on the Charlotte City Council. He was elected in 1983 as Charlotte’s first African American mayor, where he served two terms (1983-1987). Harvey Gantt was twice the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate from NC -- in 1990 and 1996. Gantt is married to Cindy Brawley, and they have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

  • Derwin Montgomery, State House Representative, representing North Carolina House District 72

    Derwin L. Montgomery, a veteran of NC politics. In August of 2018, Derwin was appointed by the Governor to complete the unexpired term of a State House Representative. In November of 2018 he ran a successful race and was elected to a full two-year term to represent North Carolina’s House District 72.


    Derwin was born to be a problem solver and strives to be a part of the solution. During his time as a student at Winston-Salem State University, Derwin recognized many opportunities within the city and saw there was a need to make changes that enhanced the underserved communities throughout the city and decided to run for City Council. At the age of 21 he was elected to the Winston-Salem City Council, unseating a 16-year incumbent, to become the youngest person to serve as a member of the City’s Council. There Derwin was elected a total of 3 terms. His services as Council Member gained him the reputation as a fighter for everyday people. Under his direction, the city established affordable housing polices, invested in historically under-invested communities, expanded the engagement of young people in city government through the establishment of the College Advisory Board and opened the doors of city government to everyday citizens through the televising of the city’s committee meetings.

    Derwin is currently a member of the State House Appropriations, Appropriations Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources, Banking, Energy and Public Utilities, Insurance and House Select on School Safety committees.


    Derwin earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science/Public Administration from Winston-Salem State University and a master’s degree from Duke University School of Divinity.

  • Linda Sutton, co-founder of the Winston-Salem Voting Rights Coalition and Central North Carolina Regional Managing Organizer for Democracy North Carolina

    Linda Sutton has been active in the community since the early 70’s, starting out as a Union Organizer and Special Voter Registration Commissioner. Over the years, she has served many boards and organizations, such as the N.C. Election Laws Review Commission; Co-chair of the Winston-Salem 2000 Census Complete Count Committee; N.C. Governor’s Minority Health Committee; the A. Philip Randolph Institute; United Way; the Goler Community Development Corporation; the National Council of Negro Women; the National Political Congress of Black Women and was inducted into the National Women of Achievement, just to name a few.


    She served on the N.C. Employment Security Commission for 13 years, and has served on the board of the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, and the NAACP Executive Committee as a Vice President, Secretary and Political Action Chairperson. She has been a Precinct Secretary, Vice Chair and Precinct Chairperson, and served 6 years on the Forsyth County Board of Elections. She is also the Voter Education and Registration Coordinator for the 21 Winston-Salem District AME Zion Churches.


    She retired from Bellsouth with 31 years of service, worked as a church administrator for 8 years and now currently works as the Central North Carolina Regional Managing Organizer for Democracy North Carolina, a non-partisan organization that uses research, advocacy, grassroots organizing and leadership development to help ensure a democracy that is truly of, by and for the people by engaging voters beyond the ballot box.


    In 2003, she founded the Winston-Salem Voting Rights Coalition, a grassroots organization of non-profit, non-partisan community groups, registering thousands of voters and engaging them in electoral reforms such as early voting, same day registration and campaign finance reform.


    Although voter registration has been her passion for over 40 years, she believes that voting is only the first step in a participatory democracy. She has dedicated her life to engaging voters in their government, from various trainings and workshops, marches and protests, community forums and meetings, film screenings - to meetings with elected officials.  In 2013, she was arrested in Raleigh for civil disobedience in protest of governmental changes in NC’s election laws which made it harder for communities of color to vote, even voter suppression through gerrymandering.

    She also believes that the younger generation will have to learn how to fight for our rights in a democratic society, just as past generations have done and just as we do today. Each summer, she engages college students in hands-on training on what civic engagement really means, hoping to make life-long voters and participants in the things that will affect their lives, and voting is one of the keys.


    Linda believes that the greatest threat to our democracy is big money influencing our elections and a lack of voter participation. She constantly repeats one of her favorite quotes, “evil flourishes when good people do nothing”.  Big money in our elections is devastating to the system, but she believes that only the peoples’ votes can change it. As Ari Berman wrote, “Voting rights make all other rights possible”. It is essential that we learn to connect the dots between our vote and who gets elected to make policy. It can’t change a person’s heart or give them morals, but it can change policies that affect our daily lives.

    She has received numerous awards including the City of Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission Humanitarian Award; Winston-Salem NAACP Presidents Award; Communications Workers of America Women’s Achievement Award; NC State NAACP Torch of Freedom Award; the W-S Chronicle Woman of the Year Award; the Urban League Community Leader of the Year Award; Martin Luther King, Jr. Dare to Make A Difference Award; the W-S Chronicle Community Service Award; Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods Grassroots Leader Award and more.


    She is the Regional Managing Organizer for democracy North Carolina, a non-partisan organization dedicated to civic engagement, electoral reforms and voting rights, through advocacy, training and organizing. Based in WS, she serves the Central Piedmont Region of NC from Alamance to Rowan County.


    She is a life-long member of Goler Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church where she has served and lead in many  capacities from Missionary Society to Music Ministry to Church Administrator. Her greatest joy is her church and her family. She is the mother of two sons, 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.