Detroit mourns the loss of one if its beloved treasures, the Honorable Norma Y. Dotson-Sales; retired 36th District Court Judge, former educator, community activist, and supporter of the arts. Born Norma Yvonne Dotson in Chicago, Illinois on July 16, 1937, and was baptized on March 9, 1945 at St. Benedict the Moor. In 1961, Norma and her husband moved to Detroit and raised five children, all of whom attended and graduated from the Detroit Public School system. Later in life she married Dr. Joseph Sales, a former Wayne State University Dean and Science Education Professor. Although Norma was not born in Detroit, she nevertheless was one of its most passionate cheerleaders.
Norma earned her Bachelors, Masters, and Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University and was recently honored as a “Treasure of Detroit” by the Wayne State University Law School. She also taught at various Detroit Public Schools including Cooper Elementary, Ralph E. Bunche Elementary, and Guest Elementary before pursuing a career in law. While attending law school, she became a proud, loyal, very active and Golden Life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. After graduating law school, Norma first practiced as a sole practitioner and later became a member of the legal staff at Michigan National Bank. In 1989, she was appointed Judge of the 36th District Court by Governor James Blanchard where she served until retiring in 2003.
From her Riverfront apartment, Norma loved her spectacular view of the Detroit River with its many passing barges, often highlighted by the glowing lights of the Ambassador Bridge. Norma reveled in telling visitors stories about Detroit’s history and taking them on tours while pointing out many fascinating, cultural, and unique facets that continue to define Detroit. Norma and Joe, were long time patrons of the Detroit Arts community. Together, they enjoyed all forms of artistic expression and were members of National Council of Arts (NCA), Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Zoo, the Detroit Science Center, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit Opera House and many others.
Even after she retired, Norma continued to serve the city of Detroit. With several friends, she formed the group known as “Making Detroit Better,” which was instrumental in garnering support for the Detroit Charter Commission and City Council candidates. Norma was appointed by Mayor Michael Duggan, to serve on the City of Detroit Board of Ethics. She also served as a board member of many organizations including: Delta Service Through Detroit Foundation, Inc (DSTDFI); the Wayne County Council for the Arts; the City of Detroit Library Foundation; and the Michigan Export Development Authority. Additionally, Norma was a member of numerous community organizations including Lifetime Membership in the NAACP, the National Conference of Negro Women, the National Conference of Arts, the Michigan District Judges Association, and the Association of Black Judges of Michigan, just to name a few.
A few of Norma’s greatest accomplishments were seeing all of her children graduate from college – a few blessed her even more with graduate degrees. In all walks of life Norma positively impacted people with her words of wisdom, warm smile and giving heart. She humbly delighted in the success of others and continues to encourage us even now. Close your eyes…see her smile, feel her warmth, hear her laughter; she still lives in each of us even now!
Her love for Detroit extended to all aspects of the city from politics to education to community service. At a time when African American girls were not welcome in the local Brownies and Girl Scouts associations, Judge Dotson and her friends established their own Girl Scout and Brownie Troops and introduced many young girls to art, poetry, culture, cooking, sewing, and music. As a public school teacher, she often “adopted” her students and welcomed them to her home where they played with her own children. Her home was known as the “Kool-Aid” house because her house was always full of her own children in addition to her students, girl scouts, and neighborhood children who were always welcome there. As she moved about the city, Judge Dotson was often recognized by many of her former students and girl scouts who expressed their gratitude to Judge Dotson-Sales for the many ways in which she inspired them to achieve their life goals.
Norma made her transition on Friday, June 9, 2017, and leaves behind to cherish her memory her devoted and loving husband Dr. Joseph Sales; sister Denise LaMonte; five children, Leslie Holland Pryor (Edward), Victoria Gray (Stoner), ReBecca Holland, Sharon Poindexter (Michael), son Steven Holland (Deirdre). Her seven grandchildren, LaMonte Holland (Luz), Nicholas, Devin, Yemko, Gji-Mi-Ya, Michael and Ora; four great-grandchildren Kaya, Dogon, Anwar, and Norma Niani; a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins; and an abundance of extended family, including step-son Joseph Sales, Jr. and friends from all walks of life.
Visitation for Norma will be at Swanson Funeral Home North West Chapel 14751 West McNichols, Detroit, Michigan, 48235. Homegoing services will be held at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, 5151 W. Chicago Blvd. on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Family Hour beginning at 10:00 am, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Omega Omega Ceremony at 11:00 am and Service at 11:30 am. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that her memory be honored with donations to the Norma Dotson-Sales HBCU Scholarship Fund. Please make checks payable to DSTDFI, P.O. Box 441921, Detroit, MI 48244-1921. (on memo line add Norma Dotson-Sales HBCU Scholarship).
Public Viewing – Friday, June 16 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Swanson Funeral Home.14751 W. McNichols
Family Hour will be held on Sat, June 17 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Delta Omega Omega Service 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Funeral at 11:30 a.m. at Ebenezer AME Church, 5151 W. Chicago Blvd
Interment will take place at Elmwood Cemetery