Dawson, William Levi


Dawson, William Levi
(1886-1970)
   African American politician William Dawson was born in Albany, Georgia. He graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1909, and in 1912 he moved to Chicago. In 1917, he joined the infantry and served as a first lieutenant in France during World War I. After the war, he went to Northwestern University Law School and was admitted to the bar in Chicago. A Republican, Dawson was elected to Chicago City Council. He unsuccessfully challenged Arthur W. Mitchell in 1938 and switched to the Democratic Party in 1939. He succeeded Mitchell when Mitchell was elected to the House of Representatives in 1942. At the time, he was the only African American in the House. In 1949, Dawson became the first African American to chair a congressional committee when he headed the Committee on Government Operations. He was a staunch party member, mobilizing black support for both city and national administrations, even during the Vietnam War. In 1966, when Martin Luther King came to Chicago to protest black poverty and poor housing, Dawson criticized him as an outsider. He remained in office until his death.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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