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Philadelphia to honor Harmon Dawson

harmon dawson (3rd from left) with the good news quartet

Philadelphia Methodist Church is celebrating the life of Harmon Dawson, age 95 and life-long resident of Jeff Davis County, on Saturday, Nov. 13, starting at 4 p.m. Mr. Dawson has been singing bass since his teenage years when he and Prentice, Lumas, and Thelma Faulk held sings in his childhood home in the Altamaha area of Jeff Davis County. Music became a large part of his life as he attended over 17 singing schools conducted by Ernest Renfroe and J.C. Cooper.
Music publication companies such as Stamps, Hinson and Tennessee published books twice a year containing over 100 songs. People would gather at churches all over the southeast for all day Sunday singing conventions sitting in groups based on their vocal part to sight read new music. People came from Macon, Tifton, and Savannah, to lead the group and sing. Many talented pianists including Mr. Dawson’s son, Rhonwyn, Charlene Hutchinson Rentz, Eddie Thompson, Freddie Johns, Ocala Hughes Fussell and the Rev. Ronald Wilcox would take turns playing these new songs. Often the writers of these songs would attend to introduce their latest compositions. One such prolific writer was Frank White from Telfair County.
After marrying his wife, Cloteel, they formed The Good News Quartet with his cousins, Irwin McLendon and Boots Reagin, with J.C. Cooper playing the piano. After Irwin left to attend medical school and Boots left for military service many other talented singers and musicians joined Harmon in singing gospel music. Some of those include: D.L. Griffin, Roney Sellers, Robert and Annette Schell, Willie Bratcher, Lonnie Brown, Lonzo Ussery, Walter Faulk, the J.V. Griffin family, Royce and Reba Yawn, Brooks and Vernon Hughes, Hoke Thompson, Otis and Marlene Wilcox, Kathy Wilcox Lord, and Jeffery Spell. Mr. Dawson sang bass for First Baptist Church Quartet that has had numerous members over the years including Rex Kinchen, Otto McLendon, Raymond Maddox, Alfred Roberts, Ben Spann, Gary Jones, Mike Cothran, Richard Ryles, and Ashley Tyre. Mr. Dawson also sang with the Brigman Family from Bacon County and Charlie Hugh Rustin, Dorothy Holland, Rev. S.B. Weber and Dorothy Nell Brantley from Toombs and Treutlen Counties and many others during these 75+ years.
The Good News Quartet, at one time, was composed of Mr. Dawson, Mildred walker, Mary Hill, Jimmie Ryles and Willard O’Quinn. Currently the group consists of Mr. Dawson, Mike Cothran, John and Rose Hunt, Sue Samoans, John and Rhonda Bennett and Jimmie Ryles. Richard Ryles, harmonica, and Nina Lewis, piano, have also played with the group. Both of these were featured on their CD, “Still Singing His Praises.” Mr. Ryles remembers that the first time he heard Mr. Dawson sing was at Satilla School where quartets and other singers gathered to sing and raise money to build Bridgeford Church of God.
Mr. Dawson has survived many of the people mentioned above and the days of Sunday gospel convention sings have passed. Please join music lovers from around the area at Philadelphia Methodist Church on Nov. 13 from 4 to 7 to honor Mr. Dawson and remember so many singers and musicians who have enriched our lives. Refreshments will follow in the social hall.

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