06/06/04 — Purple Heart to be awarded in memory of World War I veteran

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Purple Heart to be awarded in memory of World War I veteran

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 6, 2004 2:01 AM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The 5-year-old girl sat at the feet of her father, Levi Dawson, and listened to stories about when he was injured in World War I.

"My daddy could really tell stories," said Jewel Dawson Kilpatrick, now the mayor of Seven Springs. "He told about when he was in the hospital after he got shot. He said he'd get in the wheelchair and run all over, and they couldn't find him."

Dawson wouldn't talk about the fighting, and he would never watch boxing or wrestling. He was shot in both legs during combat and received a bayonet wound in his hand. "He said he got close enough to the enemy that the bayonet at the end of the enemy's gun stuck up into his finger."

For years, Mrs. Kilpatrick wanted to honor her father, and in December, she and her daughter, Wendy Bovell, decided to write a letter requesting the award. They sent it to U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who took care of the details and is sending members of his district staff to a ceremony Saturday when Mrs. Kilpatrick receives her father's Purple Heart. The presentation by retired Army Lt. Col. George Williams is part of the opening ceremony of the town's Ole Timey Days Festival, which will begin at 10 a.m. at the boat landing next to the Whitehall Bridge at the end of Seven Springs' Main Street.

Mrs. Kilpatrick recalls that her father would never rush anywhere for anything, having gotten sick of being forced to run while in the Army. He told his family he was never going to walk fast again as long as he lived.

"Everybody teased him about walking so slow," Mrs. Kilpatrick says. "He walked real slow. He promised himself when he got out of the service he was going to walk slow everywhere he went.

"Everybody called him Swiffy, and they called me Little Swiffy."

Private First Class Levi Dawson was born in LaGrange and was a 22-year-old farmer when he entered the Army in 1917. He was injured during a battle at Bellicourt, France, in 1918 and returned home the following year after two years in the Infantry Demolition Group.

The same year he was injured, Dawson's wife, La Ura Head-Dawson, gave birth to a daughter, Hannah. The baby died at the age of 2 months. He never got to see her. Another 3-month-old baby, Christine, died in 1920, soon after he returned from the war.

The family lived in a house across from the Baptist parsonage on Spring Street. The town, now known as Seven Springs, was then called Whitehall.

Doris came in 1921, then Roger in 1923, and in 1932, Jewel. Dawson owned a general store in the building that now houses Mae's Grill on Main Street.

"He loved fishing on the river," said Mrs. Kilpatrick. "He'd sell what he caught."

She described her father as an easy-going man. She took care of him until he died in 1961 at the age of 67.

She is his only surviving child.

When she receives the Purple Heart, she plans to put it in a glass-covered case with a picture of him in his uniform and his discharge papers.

"My daddy would be so proud if he could be here. ... I'm proud," she said. "It's going to be something I will remember forever. I wish we'd done it when he was alive, but nobody thought about it."