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Harold A. Dawson, Sr.

Real estate tycoon Harold A. Dawson, Sr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 5, 1935. While still in grade school, Dawson began working, polishing brass and washing windows for money. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1953, he went on to attend Morehouse College. However, a personal crisis in 1955 forced him to leave school early. In 1957, he was hired by T.M. Alexander, Sr. of Citizen’s Trust Bank as a realtor, and later went over to Alexander’s firm, Alexander & Associates, the most prestigious African American owned real estate firm at the time. but he returned, earning his B.S. degree in business administration in 1963.

Alexander & Associates later became Alexander-Dawson & Associates, where Dawson served as president. Under his guidance, Alexander-Dawson & Associates built the University Plaza Apartments, the first luxury mid-rise building in Atlanta’s black community. The firm also bought and developed properties behind the “Peyton Wall,” the controversial wall built in an attempt to separate Atlanta’s black and white communities. In 1969, he formed the Harold A. Dawson Company (HADCO), where he remains today as CEO.

HADCO has grown from its early years of selling homes in the Atlanta area to developing multi-million dollar properties across the United States. Some of the recent accomplishments of the company include Centennial Hill in Atlanta, which houses the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and a high-rise condominium building, and Centerpoint in Baltimore, which occupies a full city block for commercial and residential use. HADCO has remained a strong family business. When Dawson was diagnosed with cancer in 1992, his son, Harold Dawson, Jr., returned to Atlanta to join the business.

A firm believer in giving back to his community, Dawson has set up a family foundation to fund a new building for Radcliffe Presbyterian Church, as well as scholarships for students who attend the church. He has also established scholarships for students attending Morehouse and Clark Atlanta Universities. Dawson holds the distinction of being the first African American to serve on the Georgia Real Estate Commission, where he is the former chairman and also a member. He is the past president of the National Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, the Empire Board of Realtists and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers.

In addition to his son, Dawson and his wife, Rose, have a daughter, Cari.

Harold Dawson passed away on January 19, 2012.

Accession Number

A2004.198

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/12/2004

Last Name

Dawson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

A.

Schools

Booker T. Washington High School

Ashby Street School

Morehouse College

First Name

Harold

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

DAW04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Islands

Favorite Quote

Do Something Even If It's Wrong.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

3/5/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

1/19/2012

Short Description

Real estate entrepreneur Harold A. Dawson, Sr. (1935 - 2012 ) is the founder of the Harold A. Dawson Company, which develops multimillion dollar projects across the United States. Dawson was also the first African American board member and former chairman of the Georgia Real Estate Commission.

Employment

Citizens Trust Bank

Alexander & Associates

Alexander-Dawson & Associates

Harold A Dawson Company (HADCO)

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harold A. Dawson, Sr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about the accomplishments of his maternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about the impact of his great-uncle George Dawson on his business career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about being an only child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. speculates about his maternal grandfather's mysterious disappearance, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. speculates about his maternal grandfather's mysterious disappearance, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his father's personality and education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memories developing his business skills in University Homes in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about being a patrol boy in elementary school and how that instilled self-esteem that was later challenged

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his favorite subjects and teachers in school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. recalls fundraising to build a Cub Scout hut while a student at Ashby Street School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his experience at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. reflects upon his early lessons in good business practices

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. explains how he entered the real estate business in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. remembers meeting HistoryMaker The Honorable Andrew Young and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes the financial lending and mortgage market for African Americans in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes Morehouse College president Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. recalls speakers at Morehouse College chapel services

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about the founding members of the Empire Real Estate Board, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. explains how he joined Alexander & Associates, which later became Alexander-Dawson & Associates, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about the wall on Peyton Road in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his first development project, University Plaza Apartments, in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his first development project, University Plaza Apartments, in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. reflects upon the role of the white business community's role in facilitating social change in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his mentor, T.M. Alexander, Sr.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his son and their vision for Harold A. Dawson Company, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his involvement with the Empire Real Estate Board and National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB)

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about being appointed to the Georgia Real Estate Commission & Appraisers Board and the National Association of Real Estate License Law Officials

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community in the field of real estate development

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harold A. Dawson, Sr. narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harold A. Brown, Sr. narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$5

DATitle
Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memories developing his business skills in University Homes in Atlanta, Georgia
Harold A. Dawson, Sr. describes the financial lending and mortgage market for African Americans in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s
Transcript
What's your earliest childhood memory?$$Well, I have a very interesting picture of my first days, or early years, in public housing at University Homes [Atlanta, Georgia] and this was the, sort of the breeding ground of my, the first business opportunity. There were people in the neighborhood who asked me to water their flowers and that was my first job and I would make, maybe twenty-five cents a week just, just watering flowers but I had to water the flowers at a certain time, around four o'clock in the afternoon and we had to do what this one particular lady said, this is the time you water. So I've learned responsibility and the value of time early on. I was paid, that was my first job but University Homes had a lot of brass. The doorbells were made of brass. The mail chutes were made of brass and the doorknobs, all made of brass, so I started a brass shining business and people had their brass shined always for Easter and for Christmas but other, and other times, so I had customers. I had regular customers. During that period--$$How old were you when you started shining brass?$$Oh, well I, I think that I was probably eleven years old. It wasn't, my mother [Katherine Singleton Dawson] was just getting me some, it was some brass polish and she would give me some rags and I had, I had customers and I made money so I was a businessman then, I didn't know it at the time but then from the brass, people would ask me as I got older, could I wash windows because one of the things at University Homes, it was a very good design but there were plenty of windows, everywhere. So I washed windows. Everyone got their windows washed during the year but always Easter, Christmastime. So I had my brass customers and then I would shine, I mean, I would wash the windows. Later on, as I got into, to high school [Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta, Georgia], I started throwing papers and this was, maybe even before I got involved in high school, the Atlanta Journal [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] afternoon paper. They hired paperboys at that time. So I had a paper route and used to deliver papers to the same people that, that years earlier that I would shine their brass. They took the paper from me and so I learned, I had a book so at that time I learned about recordkeeping because I had to collect for the paper every week and I had to keep up with who was paying, who didn't pay, if they owed me for two weeks, if they missed a week and sometimes people would tell me, I don't have the money right now but come back next Wednesday around 6:30 and I learned then that you write down things that you need to do and when someone tells you to come back, to collect some money, you go back at the time that they tell you and you have a greater opportunity of collecting money then than not showing up or comin-- or coming back at a different time. So I learned many business skills right there in University Homes, public housing.$--And also seeing, you know, during that time real estate opportunities for minorities to evolve. We had, I mentioned Mutual Federal Savings and Loan [Mutual Federal Savings Bank of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia], they made loans during the period that I was first getting involved in real estate. We were right next door to Trust, to Citizens Trust Bank [Atlanta, Georgia], that made funds available to Atlanta Life [Insurance Company; Atlanta Life Financial Group, Atlanta, Georgia] that made loans to minorities and one of the interesting things during that period was the fact that Atlanta [Georgia] has always had a very strong middle class because of the presence over the years of black educational institutions. So, blacks could work and go to school and it wasn't, again, something that was distant, faraway, it was just right there for us, for our parents. So, we had this strong black middle class. We had the financial institutions that were there. The white institutions saw the black institutions making loans and maybe they didn't make a lot of loans but they made loans available so white institutions probably, to a greater degree and to, in greater numbers, made loans to blacks. It was, it was almost like the blacks were there and identified a market. The whites' institutions, financial institutions, saw this market and made loans available. So we, as real estate sales people and brokers, we could go to a black institution or white institution. So mortgage money was available during this period and this was not something new at that time, it just was, it just became more prevalent and more blacks, families, bought homes. And, of course, you had the FHA [Federal Housing Administration] and VA [U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs] loans available at that time so it was, it was a very good time and it was a changing time with the Civil Rights Movement as sort of an activity that was going on at the same time.