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William Crosby Dawson

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

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
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's At-large district
In office
November 7, 1836 – November 13, 1841
Preceded byJohn E. Coffee
Succeeded byMark A. Cooper
Judge, Ocmulgee Circuit Court, Georgia
In office
1845 – ?
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1855
Preceded byHerschel V. Johnson
Succeeded byAlfred Iverson, Sr.
Personal details
BornJanuary 4, 1798
Greensboro, Georgia
DiedMay 5, 1856 (aged 58)
Greensboro, Georgia
Political partyStates' Rights Party, Whig
Spouse(s)Henrietta M. Wingfield ( – 4/7/1850)
Alma materFranklin College (1816)
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Battles/warsCreek and Seminole Indian War

Early life, education and legal careerEdit

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 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.

Dawson set up a practice 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. His wife died in 1850. Dawson remarried in 1854 to 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 careerEdit

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 elected as a States' Rights candidate to the United States House of Representatives for the 24th United States Congress in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of General John E. Coffee, taking office on December 26, 1836.[5] He was 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 thought his defeat as gubernatorial candidate meant that voters disapproved of his congressional service, particularly his vote earlier in the year to tax coffee and tea.[6] He resigned from Congress.

During his service in the United States House, Dawson 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 he declined to run as a candidate for the bench at the completion of his term.

Dawson was elected by the state legislature 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][9] 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]


Dawson was initiated to the Scottish Rite Freemasonry at the "San Marino" Lodge No. 34, Greensboro, GA.[10][11][12] He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Georgia on November 8, 1843[13] and served in that capacity until his death in 1856.[14] While in Congress, he was active in local Freemasonry. The Dawson Lodge in Washington, D.C.[15] and the Dawson Lodge in Social Circle, Georgia were named for him.[16][17]

Death and legacyEdit

Dawson died in Greensboro on May 5, 1856, and was buried in Greensboro Cemetery with Masonic rites following a service in the Presbyterian church. A historical sign was placed in his honor in Greensboro.[18]

Because of his elegant manners, he was called "the first gentleman of Georgia" by Joseph Henry Lumpkin.[19]

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."[20]

Dawson County, Georgia, and the county seat, Dawsonville, were named for William Crosby Dawson.[21] 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.[22]

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.


  • United States Congress. "William Crosby Dawson (id: D000156)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. NB: has error in date admitted to bar.
  • A collection of family records, with biographical sketches and other memoranda of various families and individuals bearing the name Dawson, or allied to families of that name. Comp. by Charles C. Dawson, pp 368–385. Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell, 1874.
  • Will of George Dawson, Sr.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • 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


  1. ^ "A Catalogue of Students at the Law School". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  2. ^ Miller, S.F. (1858). The Bench and Bar of Georgia: Memoirs and Sketches: With an Appendix, Containing a Court Roll from 1790-1857, Etc. 1. J.B. Lippincott & Company. p. 298. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  3. ^ "UGA Alumni Association | History". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  4. ^ "LXC514x1853/1f/cat_of_books_at_UGA_1850". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  5. ^ Northen, W.J. (1906). Men of Mark in Georgia: A Complete and Elaborate History of the State from Its Settlement to the Present Time, Chiefly Told in Biographies and Autobiographies of the Most Eminent Men of Each Period of Georgia's Progress and Development. 1. A. B. Caldwell. p. 395. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Stryker's American Register and Magazine. 3. W.M. Morrison. 1849. p. 427. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  7. ^ Miller, S.F. (1858). The Bench and Bar of Georgia: Memoirs and Sketches: With an Appendix, Containing a Court Roll from 1790-1857, Etc. 1. J.B. Lippincott & Company. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  8. ^ Miller, S.F. (1858). The Bench and Bar of Georgia: Memoirs and Sketches: With an Appendix, Containing a Court Roll from 1790-1857, Etc. 1. J.B. Lippincott & Company. p. 309. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  9. ^ Hamilton, Holman (2015). Prologue to Conflict : The Crisis and Compromise of 1850. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. p. 108. ISBN 9780813158310. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Celebrating more than 100 years of the Freemasonry: famous Freemasons in the history". Mathawan Lodge No 192 F.A. & A.M., New Jersey. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008.
  11. ^ "List of famous Freemasons". Archived from the original on Oct 14, 2018.
  12. ^ "San Marino Lodge #34 F&AM Masonic Lodge in Greensboro, GA". Archived from the original on September 10, 2017.
  13. ^ Moore, C.W. (1844). The Freemasons' Monthly Magazine. 3. Tuttle & Dennett. p. 86. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  14. ^ "allpgms". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  15. ^ Harper, K.N.; Freemasons. Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (1911). History of the Grand Lodge and of Freemasonry in the District of Columbia: With Biographical Appendix. order of the Grand Lodge, R. Beresford, printer. p. 216. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Historical Markers by County - GeorgiaInfo". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Dawson Crosby, William". Archived from the original on September 10, 2018.
  18. ^ Seibert, David. "William C. Dawson historical marker". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  19. ^ Evans, L.B. (1898). A History of Georgia for Use in Schools. American Book Company. p. 246. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  20. ^ Giddings, J.R. (1863). The Florida Exiles and the War for Slavery: Or, The Crimes Committed by Our Government Against the Maroons, who Fled from South Carolina and Other Slave States, Seeking Protection Under Spanish Laws. Follett, Foster and Company, J. Bradburn (successor to M. Doolady). p. 243. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  21. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 101.
  22. ^ Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, GA: Winship Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-915430-00-2.
U.S. 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
U.S. 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.