William Crosby Dawson

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The Hon.
William Crosby Dawson
William Crosby Dawson.jpg
Clerk of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
1821 – c. 1833
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the district
In office
1834–1835
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's At-large district
In office
November 7, 1836 – November 13, 1841
Preceded by John E. Coffee
Succeeded by Mark A. Cooper
Judge, Ocmulgee Circuit Court, Georgia
In office
1845 – ?
United States Senator, Georgia
In office
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1855
Preceded by Herschel V. Johnson
Succeeded by Alfred Iverson, Sr.
Personal details
Born January 4, 1798
Greensboro, Georgia
Died May 5, 1856 (aged 58)
Greensboro, Georgia
Political party States' Rights Party, Whig
Spouse(s) Henrietta M. Wingfield ( – 4/7/1850)
Alma mater Franklin College (1816)
Profession Lawyer
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Captain
Battles/wars Creek and Seminole Indian War

William Crosby Dawson (January 4, 1798 – May 5, 1856) was a lawyer, judge, politician, and soldier from Georgia.

Early life, education and legal career[edit]

Dawson was born in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia, January 4, 1798. His parents were George Dawson, Sr. and Katie Ruth Marston Skidmore.

After taking an academic course from the Rev. Dr. Cumming, Dawson attended the county academy in Greensboro, and then was graduated from Franklin College, Athens, Clarke County, Georgia, in 1816 at the age of eighteen. He then studied law for a year in the office of the Hon. Thomas W. Cobb, at Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia, and then in the Litchfield Law School of Judges Tapping Reeve and James Gould at Litchfield, Connecticut.[1] In 1818, he was admitted to the bar and practiced in Greensboro where he was a successful jury lawyer. He was known for his ability to settle cases out of court.

In 1819 he married Henrietta M. Wingfield. They had eight children. He became a widower in 1850 and in 1854 married Eliza M. Williams of Memphis, Tennessee.[2]

Dawson was elected as one of the vice presidents of the Alumni Society of the University of Georgia at its first meeting, on August 4, 1834.[3]

Political and military career[edit]

He was elected Clerk of the Georgia House of Representatives in 1821 and served twelve years in that post. From 1828, he compiled Dawson's Digest of Laws of Georgia, published in 1831.[4]

From 1834 to 1835 he served as a state Senator.

In 1836 he was Captain of Volunteers under General Winfield Scott in the Creek and Seminole Indian War in Florida.

Dawson was then elected as a States' Rights candidate to the United States House of Representatives for the 24th United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of General John E. Coffee, taking office on December 26, 1836,[5] then re-elected as a Whig to the 25th, 26th, and 27th Congresses. He served from November 7, 1836, to November 13, 1841.

He was the Whig candidate for Governor of Georgia in 1841 but was defeated by Charles James McDonald. He saw his defeat as gubernatorial candidate as disapproval of his congressional service, particularly his vote earlier in the year to tax coffee and tea,[6] and so resigned from Congress.

During his service in the United States House, he chaired the Committee on Mileage (25th Congress), the Committee on Claims (26th Congress), and the Committee on Military Affairs (27th Congress).

He was appointed by Governor George W. Crawford to fill a vacancy as Judge of the Ocmulgee Circuit Court in 1845 but declined being a candidate for the bench at the completion of his term.

Dawson was elected in November, 1847[7] as the Whig candidate for Georgia's Class 3 seat in the United States Senate for the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd Congresses, serving from March 4, 1849, to March 3, 1855. Dawson supported the compromises that preserved the union in 1850.[8] He chaired the Committee on Private Land Claims (32nd Congress) and presided over the Southern convention at Memphis in 1853.

He was twice a delegate to the convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.[6]

Freemason[edit]

He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Georgia on November 8, 1843[9] and served in that capacity until his death in 1856.[10] While in Congress, he was active in local Freemasonry. The Dawson Lodge in Washington, D.C.[11] and the Dawson Lodge in Social Circle, Georgia were named for him.[12]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dawson died in Greensboro on May 5, 1856, and was buried in Greensboro Cemetery with Masonic rites following a service in the Presbyterian church.

Because of his elegant manners, he was called "the first gentleman of Georgia" by Joseph Henry Lumpkin.[13]

Joshua Reed Giddings described him: "He was a man of much suavity of manner; one of that class of Southern statesmen who felt it necessary to carry every measure by the influence of personal kindness, and an expression of horror at all agitation of the slave question, under the apprehension that it might dissolve the Union."[14]

Dawson County, Georgia, and the county seat, Dawsonville, were named for William Crosby Dawson.[15] The county was created by a legislative act on December 3, 1857, primarily out of Lumpkin County and small parts of Gilmer, Pickens and Forsyth counties. Dawson, the county seat of Terrell County, Georgia was incorporated on December 22, 1857 and named for William Crosby Dawson.

Company C, 3d Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia, C.S.A., from Greene County, was called the "Dawson Grays" in his honor.

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • American National Biography; Dictionary of American Biography; Mellichamp, Josephine. “William Dawson.” In Senators From Georgia, pp. 127–30. Huntsville, Ala.: Strode Publishers, 1976. ISBN 0-87397-082-9

Notes[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John E. Coffee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large congressional district

November 7, 1836 – November 13, 1841
Succeeded by
Mark A. Cooper
United States Senate
Preceded by
Herschel V. Johnson
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1855
Served alongside: John M. Berrien, Robert M. Charlton, Robert A. Toombs
Succeeded by
Alfred Iverson, Sr.