Born in Anniston, A1., in 1899, William Levi Dawson entered Tuskegee Institute at the age of 15 and completed his education there in 1921.
Following studies at Horner Institute of Fine Arts, the American Conservatory of Music, and Eastman School of Music, Dawson performed with the Chicago Civic Symphony. His composition "Negro Folk Symphony" was debuted by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.
In 1931 he organized the School of Music at Tuskegee, and directed the rise of the Tuskegee Choir to international prominence. He received many honors including two Wanamaker Awards and an honorary doctorate from Ithaca College.
He died May 2, 1990.
Dawson is the 1989 Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement recipient.