ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Clayton Leroy Dawson, 91, passed away at home in Atlantic Beach, Fla., surrounded by his immediate family, on Feb. 19, 2013.
Born in Seattle, Wash., on March 25, 1921, his life centered on teaching, writing, reading and his love of movies, gardening and music. In 1939, Clayton Dawson started his first job making 25 cents an hour as a "printer's devil" in his father's printing shop.
During World War II, he enlisted in the Army Signal Corps and served from 1942-1945 in a unit stationed in Alaska. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University after graduating from the University of Washington.
Professor Dawson was a specialist in Slavic Languages and Literature, who studied with the well-known linguist Roman Jakobson while at Harvard. After receiving his doctoral degree there, he first taught at Syracuse University, where he became chairman of the Slavic Language Department and associate director of the Eastern European Language Program. He also served as the language adviser to the U.S. Air Force and quality control officer of all languages taught in intensive language training courses for military personnel.
The majority of his career was spent at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was head of the Slavic Languages and Literature Department (1966-1976) and a professor of Russian until his retirement in 1988. Professor Dawson wrote several books on Russian language instruction including a widely used audio-lingual textbook. His best-known contribution was as senior author of the textbooks Modern Russian I and Modern Russian II, published by Georgetown University Press. As an Emeritus Professor, his work centered on the writing of a dictionary of Old Church Slavic.
At the University of Illinois, Professor Dawson was a founding member of the local Film Society. He possessed an intimate knowledge of all things movie-related and he was an able pianist who enjoyed playing and collecting the scores and lyrics of songs written by Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and other popular composers.
Professor Dawson is survived by his wife of 62 years, Elizabeth Abbott Dawson; one daughter, Margaret Dawson van de Guchte, married to Maarten van de Guchte; three grandchildren (Adriana, Ryerson, and Nicholas); as well by his sister, Kathryn Rickey of Snohomish, Wash. A son, Robert, preceded him in death.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Please visit our online Tribute at www.quinn-shalz.com. Services under the direction and care of Quinn-Shalz, A Family Funeral Home, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.