Profiles from the Archives: Crawford P. Dawkins

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Crawford Paul Dawkins was born on October 8, 1895, in Richmond County, N.C., to Commodore Perry and Martha Ellen (who went by “Evaline”) Lancaster Dawkins. By 1900, the Dawkins family had moved to the small industrial village of Roberdel in central Richmond County. They moved there when Martha Dawkins became terminally ill, and she needed to be attended to by a doctor in Roberdel named Dr. Ledbetter. Crawford’s mother died on April 20, 1900, leaving Commodore Dawkins to raise his six children alone. Three of the oldest Dawkins children would work in a cotton mill to help support the family during this period, as Commodore Dawkins would work on his farm. On November 22, 1905, Commodore Dawkins remarried to Mary Catherine Bruton. The Dawkins continued living in Roberdel through the 1910s.

Crawford Dawkins would attend Roberdel High School, and graduated in May 1916 as one of only three people in his senior class. One of his best friends during his school years was a girl named Ida M. Hammond, with whom he would correspond throughout his time in college. Dawkins went on to attend college at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., starting in the fall of 1916. By the fall 1917 school year, Dawkins had transferred as a sophomore to Trinity College (present-day Duke University) in Durham, N.C. By January 1918, he was working as a night clerk at the Durham Hotel (not the same as the mid-twentieth century “Durham Hotel”) while attending college.

Dawkins received his local draft board reporting notice for a physical examination in January 1918, and he would write to a friend in February 1918 that he expected to be soon serving in the U.S. Army during World War I. Between February and May 1918, Crawford Dawkins entered military service for the war. At some point, he would come to serve in the U.S. Navy. Apparently, Crawford Dawkins and Ida Hammond intended to get married during one of his Navy furloughs in December 1918, and the couple even took out a marriage certificate. Although it is unknown what changed, the couple would not marry until December 24, 1920, in Richmond County, N.C.

Little detail is really known about Dawkins’ Navy service, as his military records have not survived. Any ranks he may have had are unknown. He appears to have been serving with the Navy attached to the Emergency Fleet Corporation, which was responsible for the construction and operation of wartime shipping for supplies and cargo. By March 1919, Dawkins was assigned to the SS Saucon, beginning after its construction was completed at the Hog Island Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in March 1919. During his Navy service, Dawkins would travel around the world, including to the following locations: Colon, Panama; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; Liverpool, England; Barbados; Romania; Japan; and China. According to a May 1920 local news item in a Richmond County, N.C., newspaper, Crawford Dawkins spent two years serving in the U.S. Navy, and returned home to Roberdel in May 1920.

After his leaving military service, Crawford Dawkins would go to work for the Strachan Steamship Company in 1920, lived for a period of the late summer in Newport News, Virginia. It is unclear where he traveled, what he did for the company, and how long he remained employed with them. By October 1921, Crawford and Ida Dawkins had come to live in Raleigh, N.C. By 1924, Dawkins would move with his wife to Greensboro, N.C., where he was working as a manager for the R. M. Parrott mimeograph machine business.

By 1930, the Dawkins had come to live in Raleigh, N.C., where Crawford was working as a typewriter mechanic for Alf Williams & Company. By 1931, Dawkins had become the manager of Carolina Typewriter Company in Raleigh. He took over the ownership and operation of the company through the 1960s, and believed to have retired from Carolina Typewriter. Crawford P. Dawkins died on December 30, 1985, in Raleigh, N.C., and was buried in Montlawn Memorial Park in the same city.

To learn more about Crawford Dawkins' life and WWI service, check out the Crawford P. Dawkins Papers (WWI 120) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C. (see the attached collection finding aid for more information).

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.

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