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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, April 14, 2024


Dec. 7, 2003 — James Dawson, who was active in many facets of the Virgin Islands community in the late 1970s, died early Saturday morning after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
With a bachelor's degree in political science from Florida A&M and a master's degree in African history from Fisk University, Dawson traveled the world and worked in a vast spectrum of areas including agriculture, education, media, government development programs and various businesses.
One of his first positions, in 1967, was associate director for the Peace Corps in India. Later he was a foreign service officer and Peace Corps director in Fiji and Tuvalu, Tanzania and Swaziland. From 1987 to 1989, he was director of the Overseas Program for Oxfam America, an international development and relief organization, and directed programs in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In the 1990s he worked as a business consultant and was vice president for international business development and government and trade relations with ABS Global, Inc., a bovine-genetics and biotech company. Most recently, he was chief executive officer for Louis Berger Group in Bangladesh, managing an agribusiness consulting project.
In the Virgin Islands, he was special assistant to John Harding, the former executive director of the Port Authority, from 1978 to 1980. Before that he was Bureau Chief for the Associated Press in the Eastern Caribbean and an active member of the press corps in the Virgin Islands.
Some St. Thomas residents may remember him also as the owner/operator of a flea market in Frenchtown. When he lived in the territory, he was a young widower and single parent, raising twins Imara and Amani.
Penny Feuerzeig, former executive editor of the Virgin Islands Daily News, maintained a friendship with him from his days on St. Thomas.
"JD was a beautiful person, full of life, full of laughter," she recalled. "He believed that he could help make the world a better place and he spent his life doing just that. He certainly made our little world — the Feuerzeig world — a better place."
Another longtime friend, Emily Tynes, said, "JD and I were the closest of friends for 35 years. The single most important thing I learned from him is that friendship is not a casual proposition. He lived all over the world, Fiji, Swaziland, Tanzania, St. Thomas, and formed enduring friendships wherever he went. No matter where JD lived, he always managed to stay in touch with the people whose lives he touched.
"He was smart, gregarious, intellectually curious, funny and irreverent," Tynes said. "He was principled and hated the world's injustices. From his days in the Peace Corps as a teen until the very end of his life, he worked to improve people's lives. Each of JD's friends would describe him differently. But they all would describe him as a person whom they trusted. They knew he was a friend who never would let them down."
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 13, at Cress Funeral Home in Madison, Wis. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in memory of James Dawson be made to the Maria Gorreti Parish, 1010 Maria Place, Madison, WI 53711. A memorial service will be held at a later date at Percy's Bus Stop on St. Thomas.

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