Biography of Hon. John Shaw Dawson

On the roll of men who have been prominently identified with the civie affairs of the State of Kansas during the past two decades, the name of Hon. John Shaw Dawson occupies a leading and conspienous place. When he came to this state, in 1887, it was as a country school teacher, but he possessed the ambition and ability necessary to carry him to high position, and it was not long are he became connected with public matters, and, being admitted to the bar in 1898, rose rapidly in his profession and in public confidence. After serving in various positions of trust, in 1914 he was elevated to the bench of the Supreme Court, where he still remains as an associate justice.

Judge Dawson was born at Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland, June 10, 1869, a son of James J. and Annie (Shaw) Dawson. His father spent the greater part of his life in railroad work in Great Britain, but in his later years followed merchandising in Scotland and held the position of postmaster in the village where he yet resides. John Shaw Dawson was primarily educated in the public schools, later attanding the Robert Gorden’s College, at Aberdeen, an institution of wide repute as a superior technical school. It was his father’s desire that he should enter the ministry for his life work, but, meeting with opposition from the prospective dominie, he was “permitted” to go to the wilds (as the father supposed) of Illinois, in the United States, where he had many relatives residing. Instead of sickening the boy of the hardships of frontier life and probably making him more docile in accepting the ministerial idea, it had the opposite effect. He liked the freedom of the West, the possibilities for a young man, the idea that it was possible to advance in the world to positions of eminence provided ability was not lacking, without easte entering into the question. From 1884 to 1887 he worked at farming in Illinois, prineipally with relations, and in March of the latter year came to Kansas. He taught country schools in Western Kansas, and during this time also attended the normal school at Salina, and in 1889 came to Topeka to become bond clerk in the office of the state treasurer. While in Western Kansas he became principal of the Hill City schools, where the president of the school board was Henry J. Harwl, one of the most brilliant of the many able lawyers in Kansas at that time. From him Mr. Dawson secured his early legal training, and March 1, 1898, at Wakeeney, was admitted to the bar. He served four years in the office of the state treasurer and during 1903-4 was chief clerk in the office of the attorney general. From 1904 to 1908 he was assistant attorney general and for six months in 1909 was private secretary to Governor W. B. Stubbs. He resigned from this position to become attorney for the State Railroad Commission. In 1910 he was elected attorney general and re-elected in 1912. During his four years of service in that office, he devoted much attention to the enforcement of the prohibitory laws, the anti-trust laws, and to bringing the great public service corporations under the control of the state government. He served as president of the National Association of Attorneys General in 1914. In 1914 he was elevated to the Supreme Bench of the State of Kansas, where he still remains. In all his career of varied activities Judge Dawson has succeeded along the direct line of his purposes. He has been the author of much reform legislation in Kansas,–anti-trust, anti-lobby laws, etc., and his entire career has been marked by courageous handling of whatever matter has come into his hands. Judge Dawson is a Presbyterian, a thirty-second degree Mason and a member of the Kansas Historical Society.

On January 1, 1896, Judge Dawson was married to Miss Mary E. Kline, of Goshen, Kansas, and they are the parents of two children: Circea Ellen and Hubert Alonzo. In his political belief Judge Dawson is a republican with progressive tendencies, but confines his activities within the ranks of his party.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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