Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page
No votes yet

Dawson, John Gilmer

by Albert W. Cowper, 1986

19 Apr. 1892–18 Jan. 1966

John Gilmer Dawson, lawyer and legislator, was born in Institute Township, Lenoir County, the son of John H. and Ann Daly Dawson. His grandparents were Thomas J. Dawson and Huldah Daniels. The founder of the Dawson family was Christopher Dawson, who served as a captain in the militia and was the father of Colonel Levi Dawson of the Continental Army.

Dawson was educated in the Kinston public schools and, after working for several years as a clerk in Kinston, studied law at The University of North Carolina from 1906 to 1909. Soon after receiving his license to practice in 1908, he joined the firm of Loftin and Vassar in Kinston. L. R. Vassar later moved to Lumberton and served on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Dawson continued to practice law with the firm of Loftin and Dawson until Loftin's death. He was an active member of the Kinston bar until he died.

A lifelong member of the Democratic party, Dawson served in the General Assembly from 1919 through 1923—in his last year, as speaker of the house. He also served as chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee. In the legislature he became closely associated with Governor O. Max Gardner, and many expected that Dawson would attempt to succeed him. But Dawson did not offer himself as a gubernatorial candidate, and never again held public office, although he continued to be influential in the Democratic party.

As a lawyer, Dawson was highly respected; as a speaker, he was without peer. He was a lifelong member of the Lenoir County Bar Association, the North Carolina State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the American Judicature Society.

On 23 Nov. 1911 Dawson married Margaret Regina Weyher, daughter of Dr. Victor E. Weyher, a prominent Kinston physician who was born in Austria. Their children were Victor, born 27 Jan. 1916, and Ann (Mrs. Seavy Highsmith), born 1 Dec. 1919. Both Dawson and his wife were members of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kinston, and at times he served on the vestry. He also served on the board of trustees of The University of North Carolina (1911–53) and was a member and one-time president of the General Society of Cincinnati.

Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: 

Correction to the article: While the article says John Dawson did not hold a political office after 1923, the state is inaccurate. Dawson later represented Lenoir County in the North Carolina Senate in 1957. 


Daniel L. Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina (1924).

Talmage E. Johnson and Charles Holloman, Kinston and Lenoir County (1954).

Additional Resources:

John Gilmer Dawson, Portait owned by the The Society of the Cincinnati, Smithson Institute Record:

North Carolina Government, 1585-1976: a Narrative and Statistical History. North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, 1981.

North Carolina Manual. North Carolina Historical Commission, 1917. (accessed May 28, 2013).

Origin - location: 


Good morning!
I am John Dawson’s granddaughter and a retired legislator myself. I read his piece on ncpedia last night, and thank you for writing about him. There is, however, a factual error. It says that he left politics after being Speaker of the House in the 1920s. In fact, he did go back to the General Assembly in the mid-1950s. He was elected to the Senate from Lenoir County. I remember going with my grandparents when he was sworn in and being in the old Senate chamber. I will try to send you the list of Senators in 1957 which confirms this, but you can also google it. My family and I would be grateful if you can correct this oversight. Many thanks. Cordially, Margaret H. Dickson


Thanks for making note of the omission. I have confirmed what you said with the book North Carolina Government ( and will share with the NCpedia editors. Also, for your own information, he was listed on pages 496, 499,l 500, and 528. On pp 496-500, he is in the list of members of the house and speaker of the house for 1999-1924 and a member of the senate  for Lenoir County in 1957.


Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at