KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Tuesday, Governor Bill Lee granted Zenobia Dobson a full pardon for a shoplifting charge she received decades ago. This pardon lifts what Dobson calls an "oppressive stigma."
Around 21 years ago, Dobson said that she was battling with substance abuse. She said it drove her to a lifestyle of bad decisions and ultimately ended up in jail on a shoplifting charge.
"When I went to jail, I was released a week before Thanksgiving and from there my life changed," Dobson said.
Dobson said she celebrates 21 years of sobriety. She said when she got the call from Governor Lee, she was excited.
“It’s a blessing from the heavens above," Dobson said. "It's a blessing from God."
Dobson is a community advocate in Knoxville. In 2015 Dobson's son, Zaevion, died while shielding some of his classmates from gunfire. In the years since she has dedicated her life to honoring his legacy. She has continued to stand up against youth gun violence.
"It's not normal for kids to lose their life to gun violence, so someone has to speak up," Dobson said.
Dobson said she has faced many barriers and sometimes people didn't give her a chance because of her past felony.
"I just wanted to pay my debt to society and get on with my life so that I could raise my family," Dobson said. "I wanted change in my life, within me, myself. I want to see change in my community. I won't stop. A mother's job is never done."
She said she knows Zaevion is watching over her — proud of how far she has come.
"I know he's in heaven. He is smiling. He is just happy about the grace that is sufficient for his mother," Dobson said.
She said since she is now pardoned, she hopes to have more opportunities ahead of her. She said she will not only be a community advocate moving forward, but a proud mother and grandmother.