DeAlvah “Dee” H. Simms ’88
First Child Advocate in Georgia
by Elliza Guta, Mercer Law Class of 2022
When I walked into Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia three years ago, I could have never anticipated the impact the organization would have on me. As an undergraduate student at Mercer University, I was looking for an experience that would help me take the knowledge I had gained in the classroom and apply it to real-world issues. Interning at Crisis Line did more than challenge my problem-solving abilities. Crisis Line opened my eyes to the injustices that occur to victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and the real-world heroes who try to right these wrongs every day: advocates, like Jamie Bormann, who accompany traumatized IPV survivors to court; lawyers, like Farley Andersen, who file child custody claims on behalf of weary mothers; and the executive director, Dee Simms, who helps keep the whole organization running.
A triple Bear and graduate of Mercer Law Class of 1988, Dee uses her Mercer degrees to continually fight for the rights of Macon’s underserved community. Prior to her work at Crisis Line, Dee was assistant district attorney for the Macon Judicial Circuit where she began the first unit in Macon to specialize in prosecuting crimes against children. Additionally, she was director of Crescent House Children’s Advocacy Center, the first child advocacy center in Macon, and was named the first child advocate for the protection of children in Georgia. Dee is exceedingly proud of the quality and number of services in the field of child advocacy today.
“Coming from very few resources 30 years ago to now having national recognition for our programs is an incredibly rewarding evolution,” Dee articulated as she reflected back on her trailblazing work in child advocacy.
During her countless years of public service, Dee has learned many important lessons, including the necessity of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. She articulated how her success as executive director of Crisis Line, a child advocate and a mother relied on her ability to leave work at the office. “When you are dealing with children who have been abused, the elderly, people who really can’t defend themselves, if you go into that field, you have got to be able to leave your work at work,” Dee counselled as she discussed her advice to individuals who are interested in child protection.
Working with clients who have experienced intense trauma can leave a mark on a person, but Dee remarked that being surrounded by a good team that supports one another is another key component for successful work in service-oriented careers.
The importance of community is a lesson that Dee learned first-hand during her three years at Mercer Law.
The relationships she built with her classmates and professors continue to shape the way she works and relates to others.
Dee commented that Mercer Law strives to foster approachability and mutual respect between professors and students. Professors want to invest in their students’ growth and desire to see their students succeed, something that sets Mercer apart from many other law schools in Dee’s eyes.
The community described by Dee is one of the many reasons I was interested in Mercer Law. Too often law schools structure their curriculum to pit students against one another and encourage professors to place research above the needs of their students. While many professors have come and gone since Dee graduated, she noted, “From everything I have seen working with Mercer Law students over the years, I know that the importance of community is something that has followed through.”
She is appreciative of the avenues Mercer made possible to her through her legal degree. While Dee didn’t follow the traditional legal path, she uses the critical thinking and problem-solving skills she developed during law school every day. Consequently, as I get ready to follow in Dee’s footsteps and begin my first semester at law school in the fall, her words confirm to me that Mercer was the right choice. Even though the material will be challenging and the workload difficult, I know that like Dee, I will leave Mercer Law with the skills to excel in a variety of legal fields.