The daughter of Frank Mathis, a prominent minister and farmer and Willie Mathis, the mother of 12 children, "Tiny" spent her childhood picking cotton on her family's farm in Kemp, Texas. Determined to get an education and "never have to work in that hot, hot sun again," Tiny moved to Dallas upon high school graduation.
In Dallas, Tiny worked as a domestic, earned her cosmetology license, and soon became the activity director at the South Dallas Nursing Home. Discontented at the way the nursing home was run, Tiny started taking courses in nursing home administration, aiming to take care of the elderly with dignity and respect.
"Going back to school was something I always wanted to do and didn't have a opportunity, so whatever became available to me, I just used to my best advantage. It was my desire from a kid up. I felt like an education is something I was supposed to have," Tiny told us.
"It took me 15 years of going to school at night to get my bachelor's degree. I kept taking courses and getting credits and before I knew it, I really was working on a Ph.D. And then it came a time when they said, 'You need to do your disseration.' I received my doctorate in 1988," Tiny said. "I never dreamed I would own a nursing home when I grew up." Along the way, Tiny managed to marry and raise six children. Strong Family Ties: The Tiny Hawkins Story contains stories of courage and triumph over adversity, racism, and ignorance.