Dawes became the first African-American gymnast to win a Summer Games gold medal and in the process became a role model and an inspiration to a generation of African-American girls who dreamed of gymnastics glory similar to what she'd experienced.
One of the girls she inspired to dream and reach for Olympic greatness was one from Virgina Beach,.VA named Gabrielle Douglas.
It's a good thing she did. Two years later Gabby's Olympic gymnastics dreams have become a reality during this one magical week in London.
One part of that dream came true in her leading the 2012 gold medal winning USA women's gymnastics team that will forever be known as the 'Fab Five' that won the team title Tuesday by a remarkable five point margin.
The Fab Five lived up to the pre-Olympic hype and beat the Sports Illustrated cover jinx as well as their competition with a 183.596 score while Russia finished second with a 178.503.
Gabby then proceeded to handle her all around competition business Thursday at the North Greenwich Arena. She beat out her Russian competitors Victoria Komova and her teammate Aliya Mustafina who took the silver and bronze medals.
Her name joins Mary Lou Retton (1984), Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008) as USA Olympic all around champions.
And somewhere in this nation of ours a little African-American girl watched this event like she did back in 1996 and is now thinking about replicating what Gabby Douglas did today at a future Olympic games.
I sure hope so.