Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man of Faith Travels to Keep Local Events in Public Eye Cable Show Has Positive Message

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man of Faith Travels to Keep Local Events in Public Eye Cable Show Has Positive Message

Article excerpt

Byline: Pat Neleski, Times-Union staff writer

ST. MARYS -- Gene Dawson didn't know that the gunman who took away months of his life in 1985 also would give him a desire to change the world, one spiritual message at a time.

Dawson is host, cameraman, promoter and pitchman for the Educational Variety Hour on public access television channels in St. Marys, Kingsland, Fernandina Beach and elsewhere. Through music and spirituality, Dawson tries to tell everyone about the importance of education and to love their neighbor.

"We share people with people to make a better change," Dawson said.

Dawson, who says he is in his mid-40s, actually created the one-man show six years ago. But the idea for it came after he survived being robbed and shot in the head in Washington, D.C.

During the months he spent in the hospital, Dawson wrote several songs focusing on the need to bring peace into people's lives and recorded them for the GWOM gospel label.

Family members said they noticed a change in Dawson when he returned to Camden County.

"He had always been a spiritual person, but after he was shot, I noticed a change. He had a stronger bond with the Lord," said childhood friend Agnes Dawson, who is married to Dawson's cousin. "I can truly say he became more faithful after he was shot."

Before moving to Washington to pursue a career in gospel music, Dawson had performed with many gospel groups in Southeast Georgia.

"He could really tear up a piano or an organ," Agnes Dawson said. "If you can imagine, his playing was more spiritual after he was shot."

With that new level of spirituality, Dawson began reaching out to people. At first, he learned to film himself so he could send out promotional videos of himself as a performer.

He later turned the camera toward family and friends and then began doing promotional programs about community events. Since 1996, Dawson has become a regular fixture in Camden County.

His messages are clear: Stay in school, stay positive, take care of senior citizens and the physically and mentally challenged, don't smoke and don't do drugs.

"Anything with a positive message," he said.

"We see him at ballgames and other events," Camden County High School Principal Gary Blount said. "He's certainly very visible.

"There are certainly some activities that might not get attention that are getting it that way. It's good."

Dawson films school plays, concerts, athletic events, grand openings, festivals and public performances and sends the videotape to the nearest local public access channel. With public access channels from Maryland to the Bahamas airing the show, Dawson spends a lot of time on the road.

Informally dubbed "Sir Gene" by British friends, Dawson funds his travel, filming costs and expenses with donations from businesses and friends and by teaching piano and organ lessons. …

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