Billy Graham Center

Interview with Charles H. Dawson - Collection 386

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Charles H. Dawson

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)


Audio file and written transcript for T1

Audio file and written transcript for T2

Brief Description.

Oral history interview in which Dawson describes his family background; conversion; involvement in street preaching; jail ministry and other work in the Camden area; involvement in the work of the Afro-American Missionary Crusade; and philosophy of Christian work.

Collection 386 [August 26, 2000]
Dawson, Charles H.; 1916-2000
Interview; 1988

2 Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Charles H. Dawson was born in 1916 in Riverton, NJ to James Henry and Betty James Dawson. His parents had just recently moved to New Jersey from Virginia. Shortly after Dawson's birth the family moved to Camden. He was the second oldest of eight children. Both his parents were devout Christians and the Bible and church attendance played a very important part in the life of the family. James Dawson was a laborer and jack-of-all-trades. Charles also worked from a very young age to help support his family. He was very active in athletics at school and was a boxer and baseball player on an amateur and semi-pro level.

He was born again in 1937 and shortly afterward began attending the New Jersey Bible Training School (later called the Grace Bible Institute), from which he graduated in 1945. At this time he was working at various jobs around Camden. By the mid-1940s he was a shipfitter working at the New York naval yard. Also about this time (1942) he married Effie Robinson, whom he had met in 1940. They had three children, all girls. Dawson was ordained in 1944. Already by that time he had been street preaching and regularly witnessing to his co-workers. He soon became a leader in local jail and prison ministries. In 1947 he was one of the founders of the Afro-American Missionary Crusade, which was created by Montrose Waite and others to provide a means for black American Christians to go to Africa as missionaries. In 1960 Dawson became the pastor of the Broadway Bible Tabernacle in Camden, a post he held until 1982, when he became pastor of the Calvary Tabernacle. He continued in all his other Christian activities. In 1967 he went on an evangelistic tour of Liberia for the AAMC and in 1968 he and Jack Wyrzten led a similar preaching tour in Kenya, Tanzania and the Congo. Dawson continued to travel to Liberia to visit AAMC missionaries and to preach in the 1970s and 1980s. He died February 4, 2000.

Scope and Content

The interview with Rev. Charles Dawson was conducted by Robert Shuster at Rev. Dawson's home in New Jersey, on February 22, 1988. The approximate time period of the events covered in the interview is 1916-1988.

Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is noted in the margin to the left of the topics discussed. The index is keyed to a cassette copy of the interview, not the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape
00:05 Introduction
00:15 Description of childhood; parents; imitating the preacher as a child; closeness
of family ties; father's occupation as a laborer and jack-of-all-trades; virtues his parents taught and lived; reason why his parents moved to New Jersey from Virginia; passing on skills to his grandchildren
06:10 His father's affable nature; importance of Christianity in the family's life; mother's house work; description of Betty Dawson; love his parents had for each other; turning down chance of college scholarship to help parents at home; jobs Dawson held as a child
12:00 First steady job at age of twenty-four; love of work; importance of getting
along with people; industrious nature; description of his brothers and sisters
16:00 Born again in 1937; importance of Deacon Dunbar who prayed for him by name; slow growth in Christ; hearing Pop Hamilton, a street corner preacher, talking about sin and salvation; Newton B. Conan
21:30 Training at the New Jersey Bible Training School; importance of studying
the Word of God; God no respecter of persons or races; importance of athletics in Dawson's life; professional boxing and baseball; Dawson's ability to get along with people; the influence of his father
28:15 Telling his mother about his call to the ministry; importance of commitment
in his life; meeting his future wife in about 1937
33:45 Course of study at the Bible School; integrated student body; example of
Mr. Field and his continual quoting from the Bible; desire for disciplining; importance of one-on-one training
39:00 Learning to trust the Lord; call and ordination in 1944; getting through to
God every day; first efforts at preaching at the shipyard where he worked; texts Dawson preached from; the importance of daily Bible study
45:30 Preaching in Africa for Africa Inland Mission in 1968 at the invitation of Sidney Langford
46:30 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape
00:05 Reason why AIM chose Dawson as an evangelist; discussing the African
trip with his wife and church elders; qualifications for the trip
04:15 Graduation from Bible school in 1944; work in the shipyard during World
War II; declaring his allegiance to the Lord; attending King County Vocational School; work in the shipyard
10:15 Graduation from Bible school; beginning a prison ministry in 1958(?);
involvement in rescue mission work; description of jail ministry work; reasons for the strong response of the prisoners; rarity of a visit by black preachers to the jail; the necessity to preach the Gospel in all kinds of places
16:00 Preaching in the red light district; reactions of guards and wardens to
Dawson's jail ministry; conditions at the state prison in Trenton; dangers in street preaching; importance of women in street preaching; the blessings of following Christ, working with Hispanics
22:30 Origins of Afro-American Missionary Crusade; Montrose Waite and his
work in West Africa; refusal of Christian and Missionary Alliance to send out black missionaries; need for a mission board to send out black missionaries; Clarence Diggins; financial support for the mission from white and black churches
28:00 List of missionaries sent; death of missionary Viola Ready; reason for the
name of the mission; need for black Bible-trained missionaries; training of African evangelists
31:30 End of side 2

Tape T2 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape
00:15 Trips to Africa in the 1980s; the training of African pastors and evangelists;
replacing American missionaries with African ones; women missionaries; the AAMC's work in Bopolu; difficulty in recruiting missionaries and board members; the importance of commitment to Christ financial support from black churches; current church planting working in Liberia
06:30 First visit to Africa in 1967 when he went to Liberia to visit the AAMC mis-
sionaries; visit to east Africa in 1968; disputes between missionaries; joy of the missionaries at seeing someone from America; the most important qualities for a missionary
17:15 The difficulty for missionaries in readjusting to life in America after living
several years in Africa; the Narramore Foundation; the need for missionaries to rest when they return to the United States, instead of engaging in intensive activity
24:30 Previous chance to be interviewed during 1961 Billy Graham Crusade;
desire to be used by the Lord; the importance of persevering in the Lord
33:15 End of tape


The interview in this collection was received from Dawson by the Center in February 1988.

Accession 88-15
May 25, 1992
Robert Shuster

Accession 88-15
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Interview with Charles H. Dawson by Robert Shuster. Original cassette transferred to reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 i.p.s, approximately 78 minutes, recorded at Rev. Dawson's home in New Jersey on February 22, 1988, one side only. Topics discussed included Dawson's parents and their influence on him; his conversion, his training at the New Jersey Bible Training School; his ministries, including street preaching and work with prisoners; origins of the Afro-American Missionary Crusade; Montrose Waite; the training of African evangelists.

T2 - Continuation of interview with Charles H. Dawson by Robert Shuster. Original cassette transferred to reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 i.p.s, approximately 33 minutes, recorded at Rev. Dawson's home in New Jersey on February 22, 1988, one side only. Topics discussed included Dawson's trips to Africa from the 1960s through the 1980s, the training of African evangelists, support in the black church in America for missions, the difficulty for missionaries in readjusting to life in America, and the qualifications of a missionary.

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