MLK Prayer Breakfast: Dale Dukes honored for humanitarian service

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Dale Dukes, left, and Norman Poole shake hands at the 2015 Western Sussex MLK Day of Celebration Prayer Breakfast. Mr. Dukes received the Community Recognition Award for his volunteerism and humanitarian service on Delmarva and abroad.


BRIDGEVILLE – Hear the name Dale Dukes and Sussex County Council or Dukes Lumber might come to mind.

Folks across Delmarva and inhabitants of the Caribbean Island country of Jamaica also call Mr. Dukes a volunteer and humanitarian.

“My volunteerism is something that I have loved to do. My dad always taught me to be mindful of others, and I love to reach out to people,” said Mr. Dukes.

In recognition of that devotion to others, Mr. Dukes was honored as the 2015 Community Recognition Award recipient at the Western Sussex MLK Day of Celebration Prayer Breakfast Monday, Jan. 19 at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville.

“It’s a very prestigious award and I appreciate them bestowing that on me,” said Mr. Dukes.

MLK Dream Team spokeswoman Patricia Jones said Mr. Dukes was nominated “because of his endless humanitarian work not just locally but also aboard. A workman is worthy of his honor. Mr. Dukes’ recognition is well deserved; and a product of keeping the dream alive!”

Approximately 200 people attended the event – punctuated by the Rev. John Moore’s inspirational delivery.

“The MLK Day of Celebration was an overwhelming breath of fresh air,” said MLK Dream Team spokeswoman Patricia Jones of Seaford. “In the mist of 200 supporters; young and old, black and white it was a day to remember. The 2015 theme echoes from the heart of Dr King: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.’ As we reflect on the world events; it was a powerful and pivoting moment to look around at the MLK Day of Celebration and see a ray of light as a result of his dream.”

Mr. Dukes was quick to note the imbedded significance of the prayer breakfast: recognizing the life, hopes and dreams of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his relentless mission for equality for all people.

“Today, it’s the day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. I’ve done a little research on him and found out that he was quite a guy. He was a man of probably many years before his time,” said Mr. Dukes. “Even though he only lived 39 years he made quite an impact on our country. I think if he were living today things would be a whole lot different than what it is today, with race tensions and relations. He was a non-violent person. He was for equal rights. He was a man of a lot of wisdom.”

One of Dr. King’s many quotes stands out, Mr. Dukes said.

“I like the main quote that he said, ‘I want my four children to be remembered not by the color of their skin but by their character,’” he said. “That is a large statement. I think that holds true for us today; that we should not hold grudges … but I think we should all learn how to live together peacefully.”

Faith has long been a foundation in the Dukes family. One of his three sons, Tim, is pastor at Central Worship Center and is also in his second legislative term as the 40th District State Representative.

A board member of Delaware National Bank and Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Mr. Dukes, 74, is a charter member of the Seaford and Laurel Boys & Girls Club, and a past president of the Delaware Association of Counties.

“I’ve been involved in Cancer Society, and all kinds of organizations. I’ve enjoyed all of those and still do a lot of those,” said Mr. Dukes. “I do a lot of church work. I sang with a quartet at our church for over 40 years.”

After 20 years on County Council – including 10 as the governing body’s president – Mr. Dukes “retired” in 2008.

Among the highlights of his County Council tenure was the January 1991 service launching of Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, at which as president he had the honor of giving the command “Medic 41 in service.”

On the local front, Dukes Lumber – a four-generation family business dating back to incorporation in the early 1960s – has often provided materials and labor to assist those in need.

“We’ve donated a lot ramps; we’ll even build them if we have to for people that are handicapped,” said Mr. Dukes.

Mr. Dukes and wife Dottie, whom he married in July 1958, have three sons: Tim, Rusty and Scott. Rusty Dukes works at the Laurel Dukes Lumber; Scott Dukes works at the Dukes’ Seaford store.

While he no longer makes weekly trips from the Laurel area to Georgetown for County Council sessions, Mr. Dukes does make annual mission trips to Jamaica.

“I guess since my political career ended my passion right now is going to Jamaica and doing missions trips,” said Mr. Dukes, who returned from the latest Jamaican mission Jan. 12.

“We took 72 people with us to Jamaica for a week, and we went into schools and did chapel services. We did street meetings. And we had a construction crew and we built a house for a lady who lived under a bridge for 25 years. We did all sorts of things. We held a baptismal before we left Jamaica. It’s just something we do every year and it is an awesome time that we have. We take about 35 students from local schools and adults. It’s an impact. It’s something I love to do.”

Mr. Dukes says it is important for those blessed to share their blessings.

“The Lord has blessed us and I think that is part of the reason. Everyone ought to find a way to give back to the community,” he said. “We do that here and we do it abroad in Jamaica. I love serving and helping people. There is just something about serving people that just gives you a lot of satisfaction.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at 629-5505 or

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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