Substance over Style
Winston-Salem State University alumnus Donald Cureton Jr. is featured on the latest edition of Charlotte’s The Paradigm Beauty & Barber Magazine.
The 34 year-old Mecklenburg County District Court judge sports a fresh haircut in the cover photo, but Paradigm writer Rashad Phillips says it was his former Garinger High School (Charlotte) classmate’s achievements, not his sense of style, that made Cureton a great candidate for the quarterly publication’s feature story.
The magazine seeks out positive stories about African Americans to offset all the negative media images, and Cureton, a graduate of Howard University School of Law, fit the bill, Phillips said.
“Our magazine’s called Paradigm. We’re trying to be a catalyst for a paradigm shift,” he remarked. “We definitely have to shift that way of thinking so that people can see that these (careers) are possibilities.”
Phillips, an alumnus of Johnson C. Smith University, remembers Cureton as a standout athlete, and said Cureton surprised many when he passed up the chance at college ball glory by opting for an academic scholarship over an athletic one.
“What resonated with me about his story was he was a very good basketball player in high school and was heavily recruited,” said Phillips, a tax accountant. “His choice to turn down some of the prestigious universities and then go to Winston-Salem State University was phenomenal.”
Cureton, a former public defender who was elected to the District 26 bench in 2010, has strong ties to WSSU. Both of his parents are alumni, as are his younger brother and sister and his wife, Deanna, who is expecting the couple’s first child in December. Cureton said Ram Pride was instilled in him at an early age.
“They didn’t force my hand about where I wanted to go to school, it was just something I grew up with,” he stated. “I love Winston.”
Like many of his loved ones, Cureton said he found WSSU to be a good fit.
“It was fantastic, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Cureton, a member of the Class of 2000, said of his undergraduate years. “I love the family atmosphere of an HBCU, but especially one that had the population that we had at that time. It gave me an opportunity to really get engaged in the university and become active in a multitude of ways.”
Cureton’s basketball career at WSSU was short lived – he left the team after his freshman year – but he says his experience as a lifelong athlete gave him many of the tools that helped him to become successful in his career.
“I realized that hard work is what is required in order for you to achieve some level of success,” he related. “(In basketball) I put in a lot of practicing, whether it was running or dribbling or strength training and I put the same effort into the books. That competitive nature in me made me want to be a good student.”
Cureton, the oldest of three children, said he never set out to become a judge.
“It’s ironic,” he remarked. “I majored in political science, but I told myself I never wanted to be in politics.”
Though he resisted in the early years, Cureton said people told him over and over that they could imagine him in a leadership position, and two years ago, he finally gave in and threw his hat in the ring.
“I had to really start listening to what I believe are signs from God about what my purpose is in life and who I could better serve in that capacity,” he related. “I said, ‘I’ve got to take a leap of faith here.’”
Though serving on the bench is no easy task, Cureton said it is a rewarding career.
“I want to give my very best so that they know that I’ve really tried to help them,” he said of the people who come before him in the courtroom. “Nobody has the perfect solution, you just have to keep trying until something works.”
Whether it’s through his classy style of dress or professional demeanor, Cureton says he strives to be a positive role model both in and out of the courtroom. Being featured in Paradigm has allowed him to reach an even broader audience. The magazine started in 2011 and is distributed to barber and beauty shops across the greater Charlotte region. Each edition features a variety of innovative hairstyles by area stylists and barbers and a cover story about a prominent public figure.
Cureton says the community has responded favorably after reading his cover story.
“The feedback’s been great. It’s just been so positive. Primarily, people have been saying the story was what they liked the most,” he declared. “I love that they’re so proud of what has happened with me and they feel like they’re vested in my success.”
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