Harold Allen Dawson Sr., an icon of entrepreneurial success and a beloved family man, passed away on January 9th, 2012. Dawson, Sr. is remembered within and beyond the Atlanta community, not only for his trailblazing success as a real estate developer, but also for his generous spirit, devotion to his family, and passion for education and the arts. Along with his wife Rose, his true partner in life and business, he changed city skylines and became a philanthropist who established scholarships, mentored young people, and relished the talents of his children and grandchildren.
A graduate of Morehouse College, Dawson, Sr. began his illustrious career selling real estate. He rapidly progressed to significant real estate developments, among which include University Plaza Apartments, noted as the first luxury mid-rise building in Atlanta’s black community; and Harris Manor subdivision, which resulted in the removal of the controversial “Peyton Wall”. The Peyton Wall was a failed attempt to separate Atlanta’s black and white communities. In 1969, Dawson, Sr. formed the Harold A. Dawson Company, now known as The Dawson Company, and he continued to serve as Chairman of the firm until his death. His son, Harold A. Dawson, Jr., Joined the company in 1992 and is currently its president and CEO.
Dawson Sr. became the first African-American to serve on the Georgia Real Estate Commission when he was appointed by then-Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter in 1972. In his record-setting 17 years of service, during which time he was elected chair of the commission, Dawson, Sr. was a strong advocate for fair housing laws. He was the first and only black president of the National Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, an international organization comprised of all major real estate commissions from around the world. Dawson, Sr. served as President of the Empire Real Estate Board, known today as the Empire Board of Realtists (EBR), from 1970-1972. The EBR was established in 1939 with a mission for minorities to have the right to live in a place of their choice and to sell in a place of their choice. Dawson, Sr. was also instrumental in changing the rules that required brokers to belong to the Atlanta Board of Realtors in order to be a member of Metro-Listing Service (MLS)
Dawson, Sr. held several memberships and served on various Boards throughout the span of his professional career, and up until the time of his transition, he was Treasurer of the Development Authority of Fulton County, which was created in 1973 by Georgia law and a resolution of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners as a special unit of government to stimulate diverse, high-quality economic development throughout Fulton County.
Dawson, Sr. received many prestigious awards and recognitions, including the “Bennie Award” from Morehouse College, “Drum Major For Justice Award” from SCLC Women, “Business and Development Award” from The National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and “The Man of Faith Award” from Radcliffe Presbyterian Church. Most recently, he was inducted into the 2009 Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame; was honored as Wesley Woods “Legend” at the Foundation’s 2010 Heroes, Saints, and Legends Awards; and he was awarded the 2008 Frank Carter Award, The highest honor bestowed by the Urban Land Institute for business prowess, leadership, and philanthropy.
A firm believer in giving back to his community, Dawson, Sr.’s legacy will continue through The Dawson Family Foundation. The Foundation helped fund a major renovation for Radcliffe Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, and awards scholarships to high school students who are members of the church, as well as students of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University. A choral room that bears the Dawson family name at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta was also funded by the Foundation.
Dawson, Sr. was 76 years old at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Rose Winfrey Dawson, who is the love of his life; their adult children, Harold A. Dawson, Jr. And Cari K. Dawson (husband, John Sparrow); and grandchildren Briana Dawson, Harold Allen Dawson, III, and Katrina Dawson (Mother, Sonia Arena Dawson)
The quintessential Renaissance woman, Mrs. Rose Winfrey Dawson, was the epitome and embodiment of grace, elegance, class, strength, poise and integrity. A beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher and mentor, Rose passed away on Sunday, April 10, 2016. Rose was known for her loving and generous heart, joyful spirit, dynamic and energetic personality, sophisticated style, fashionable hats, exuberant and infectious smile, and precise diction, articulation and enunciation. Rose was dedicated to her family, friends, church, students and community. Her commitment and service to others have left an indelible and inimitable impact on the lives of multiple generations within the Atlanta community. This is her legacy of love.
Rose was a product of the Atlanta Public School System and a graduate of Morris Brown College and Columbia University, where she received her Master’s Degree in speech and language pathology. In addition to her thirty-five years with the Atlanta Public School System – three as a classroom teacher and thirty-two as a speech and language pathologist – she also taught at Atlanta University and provided out-patient and visiting speech/language therapy to patients of Grady Memorial Hospital. Recognized as a trailblazer and pioneer in her chosen field, she was selected by Southern Bell in 1993 as a “Teacher of Excellence” and featured in the 1993-94 Southern Bell Calendar of Black History.
Rose was active in many civic and community organizations in Atlanta. She served on the Mayor’s Task Force for Public Education during Mayor Andrew Young’s Administration and as past vice-president and teen sponsor for the Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. She was a member of the Atlanta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Club Aucourant, and the Board of S.C.L.C. Women, where she served as co-chairperson of the Educational Task Force. She served as a Trinity School Board Trustee, Chairperson of the City of Atlanta’s Senior Citizens’ Ball for Mayor Shirley Franklin, and served on the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics Host Committee.
Rose’s professional and civic duties also included supporting her late husband, Harold Allen Dawson, Sr. and the family’s real estate business. She was the Corporate Secretary of The Harold A. Dawson Company, Inc. and Trustee of The Dawson Family Trust. Rose’s love and support were the foundation that enabled Harold, Sr. to build a successful business. At the Company, Rose also held the positions of Chief Inspirational Officer, Chief Emotional Officer and Chief Spiritual Officer. Though Harold, Sr. was the founder and business leader of the Company, Rose was truly the heart, soul and spiritual leader of the Company; she made it a family and left her mark on many current and past employees. The Harold A. Dawson Company would never have achieved the success that it has without the support, influence and prayers of Rose.
Rose was also an active member of Radcliffe Presbyterian Church throughout her life, serving as a Church School Teacher, Vacation Bible School Teacher and Church School Youth Drama Coordinator. She also served as an Usher, Vice President of the Volunteer Service Guild, Member of the Evangelism Committee and Deacon. Rose pioneered the theater ministry at Radcliffe and directed a number of productions for the church. In 1994, she was Radcliffe’s Women’s Day Speaker, and in 1998, she was honored and recognized as Radcliffe Presbyterian Woman of the Year.
Rose is survived by her children, Harold Allen Dawson, Jr. (wife, Christina Wilson) and Cari Katrice Dawson (husband, John Sparrow) and grandchildren Brianna Alexandra Dawson, Harold Allen Dawson III, Katrina Riel Dawson, Sam Wilson and Jay Wilson.
Rose has left a legacy of love that will continue for generations to come. We are better for all that she has given us. Her life has blessed us beyond measure. Rose “fought the good fight; she finished the race; she kept the faith.” She is at peace now.