Huntington, WV Black History

Roberta Dawson

Head Cafeteria Cook

Dorothy Roberta Scott Dawson was born in Charlottesville, Virginia.  She and her family moved to Covington, Virginia, where she married and started her family. She began her culinary career in Covington at the Silver Arrow Restaurant.

When the family moved to Huntington in 1953, Dawson was a stay-at-home mom, but she was active in the Barnett Elementary School PTA and was the first African American Brownie/Girl Scout leader in Huntington. Her family joined First Baptist Church, and she became active in the choir, the Women’s Organization, youth counseling and the banquet committee.

After all the children were in school, she started working for private families. She worked as a poll worker during elections and was part of the protest of the White Pantry Restaurant.

In the early 1960s, Dawson became a substitute cook for the Cabell County public schools system and was hired as a full-time cook at Simms Elementary School. She was the first African American head cook. She remained at Simms until it closed in 1981 and continued cooking at Spring Hill Elementary School until her retirement in 1986. Every child, parent and staff member loved her cinnamon rolls.

Dawson was a very gifted woman. She enjoyed sewing, antiquing furniture, upholstering and playing bid whist. She catered for many organizations and activities in Huntington. Dawson not only fed her children, but she also fed anyone who entered her home, and her children were always bringing friends home. She and her husband invited Marshall students to their home on Sundays after church, serving nourishing, homecooked meals.

She is remembered fondly for the special treatment and acts of kindness she gave students and community members.

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