|A career in medicine, an air-force officer…these were ideas that Dana Dawson, Jr., had for his life’s work. But God had other plans. As Dana told it, his call to ministry came while hiking in the Colorado Rockies: “I was sitting there resting, all was quiet around me, when suddenly I felt someone else with me, a Presence. Somehow I knew it was the Presence of God and it seemed He said to me, ‘Dana, I want you to be a preacher.’” Dana’s response to that call took him to Centenary College, Duke Divinity School and later to Yale.
In 1942, he married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Howe, of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Their life together would be blessed by two daughters, Elizabeth and Linda.
Dana’s ministry, with the exception of student appointments in North Carolina, was carried out in three Methodist Churches in Louisiana. His first appointment was the Eighth Street Methodist Church in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. The street in front of the church and parsonage was paved with oyster shells and the saying in the neighborhood was “You can smell your way to Eighth Street.”
After four years at Eighth Street, the Dawsons moved to Munholland Memorial Methodist Church on Metairie Road. In the eight years that he was pastor, Munholland grew from a mission church of 250 members to the largest church in the New Orleans District.
In 1955 Bishop Paul E. Martin appointed Dana as the Senior Pastor at First Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. For the next 20 years, Dr. Dawson’s dynamic leadership made First Methodist Church one of the outstanding churches in Louisiana Methodism. Among the highlights of his tenure were: the organization of the XYZ Program, a pioneering ministry with older adults; the development of mission projects to Haiti, Mexico, South America, India, Liberia and South Africa; building an Adult Center.
In 1974, Dana took medical disability. Upon being granted this status, the Administrative Board voted unanimously to name him Pastor Emeritus. Thought greatly limited by health problems, Dana continued to be involved in the life of First Methodist and the Louisiana Annual Conference for nineteen years of his retirement. He was often a compassionate and wise counselor to the present pastors at First United Methodist.
On April 20, 1993, a full sanctuary stood to sing “A Mighty Fortress Is our God” as the memorial service for Dr. Dawson began. It seemed a fitting affirmation for one who had trusted his way to the Lord and followed Him faithfully in a ministry of distinguished and dedicated service.
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1993; p. 229 By Dr. Chris Andrews|