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Edward Dawson

Gender: Male

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Biographical/Historical note:

Eddie Dawson was born on March 6, 1918, in New Jersey. He worked for his father, a carpenter, until 1931, when he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. After leaving the Corps in 1935, he returned to working for his father. He was married in 1939.

In December of 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. His first assignment was to Fort Meade, Maryland. In late December, Dawson went AWOL to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. He returned to the base on January 2, 1942, was placed under arrest, and sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. He served there for six months and then he was sent to Cooks and Bakers School. There he had an altercation with an officer and went AWOL again in Philadelphia. In 1942, after six months AWOL, he was arrested and sent to Camp Picket, Virginia. Though he was sentenced to five years, he only served three because of good behavior. During this time, he and his wife divorced. He was then sent to Camp Steward, Georgia. When he was denied benefits he was promised, he again went AWOL. When he was arrested in 1944, he was sentenced to ten years. He was working at a rock quarry Chattanooga, Tennessee, awaiting transportation to Leavenworth, Kansas, when he and a fellow prisoner escaped. Dawson was arrested at his family’s home in Long Island, New York. He was sentenced to thirty years and sent to Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. After fourteen months he was transferred to a military prison in Wisconsin. He only served three years of his sentence and was released on dishonorable discharge in November of 1947.

Dawson moved to his family’s home in New Jersey and worked with his father in construction. On May 8, 1948, he was married and moved to Miami. The couple then moved to New Orleans, and in 1950, Danville, Illinois. After two months in Danville, they moved to California. They lived briefly in Los Angeles, and later in San Francisco. Dawson held a carpentry job in each city he lived in. The couple returned to Miami and then moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Dawson was offered a job. They lived there for ten years. In 1964, they moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. After seeing that the market for vinyl siding was growing in Greensboro, he and his wife moved to the city.

In 1964, Dawson joined the United Klans of America (UKA). He quickly made his way into the Inner Circle and was sent on various assignments. On November 24, 1966, while sent to investigate a prostitution ring in Alamance County, Dawson and the three men he were with vandalized property and shot at a black-owned grocery store. The men were arrested, tried, and found guilty. When George Dorsett overthrew the UKA in 1967 and formed the Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of North Carolina, Dawson protested and eventually the UKA won back its charter. Dawson’s appeal was denied in 1967 and he was sentenced to eighteen years, of which he served nine. He was released in late December of ’67 and resumed his Klan involvement.

On July 4, 1969, Dawson attended a Klan rally in Swan Quarter, North Carolina. That evening violence broke out between the Klan and the black community. Dawson was arrested given felony riot charges. The Klan pled guilty and each defendant received five years of probation and a one-thousand dollar fine.

In November of 1969, Dawson became an FBI informant. Around this time he and other Klansmen formed the North Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Dawson served as chief of security. In 1977 his stint as an FBI informant ended.

Dawson was a paid Greensboro Police Department informer in the late seventies. He helped organize the Klan response to the November 3, 1979, Death to the Klan march, which left five Communist Workers Party members dead. When he heard gunfire, Dawson and another Klan member fled the scene. He was not called as a witness in the state trial, N.C. v. Fowler. He was indicted for conspiring to interfere with a federal investigation in U.S. v. Griffin, and on April 15, 1984, he was acquitted. In a civil suit, Waller v. Butkovich, Dawson was found liable in the death of Michael Nathan.

Dawson passed away on September 19, 2002, at the age of eighty-three.

Items created by this individual or group:
Item thumbnail image Oral History Interview with Edward Dawson by Scott Ellsworth
Date: May 26, 1977
By: Edward Dawson
From: William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection

This May 26, 1977, oral history interview conducted by Scott Ellsworth with Edward Dawson primarily documents Dawson’s service in the U.S. Army in the forties and his membership in the United Klans...