Life Is So Good

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Good Man, Good Life

Richard Dawson
Possum Trot, Texas

Anyone who knows the story of George Dawson understands perfectly well why he’s considered an icon of lifelong learning. Born at the turn of the last century, he lived all his life with a strong yearning to attend school and to be educated. Growing up in one of the poorest places in Texas, at a time when opportunities for black people were scarce, his chances to learn were slim. Instead, he worked from the time he was a young child and was even farmed out as a laborer when he was eleven or twelve years old. This was required of him so that his family could eat and his younger siblings could attend school.

Dawson worked all his life…on a road crew, in a dairy business, and as a father. He helped his seven children with their homework and insisted that they master their studies, even though he, himself, could not read or write. And amazingly, his children later said that they never knew until they became educated adults that their father had been illiterate. His passion for learning and his level of intelligence made him seem more like the scholar he’d wanted to be than like the man circumstances had required him to be.

George Dawson’s big break came as he approached his 100th year of life. He was 98 when a knock at his door revealed news about an adult education class at a nearby school. He decided to make the most of this chance. When he arrived the first day, he was compelled to answer his teacher honestly that “No, sir,” he did not know his alphabet.

But he learned. And he read. And he became a role model as the oldest student to attend the program. Other students remarked that if Mr. Dawson could attend and commit himself to learning, then they had no excuses.

George Dawson left this world in 2001, having reached many of the milestones he’d wished for himself…even though he’d had to wait until later in life to finally become a literate man. Throughout his century of living, he maintained one credo…an intensely positive attitude that no matter what happens, one must always remember that “life is so good”. His good life and great legacy are revealed in his biography, co-written with Richard Glaubman. When it comes to adult education, George Dawson enduringly shows us the way.

This article is based on a number of stories about the life of George Dawson but primarily the book by Dawson and Glaubman. You may link to it by clicking the book images. A children’s book along a similar theme is called Mr. George Baker. It is a high recommendation for teaching children about the gift that our elderly family, friends and neighbors represent for each of us and it demonstrates that learning is truly for a lifetime. Click on the book image to learn more.