Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

December 24, 2006

Valdosta’s ‘Red’ Dawson speaks of 'We Are Marshall'

VALDOSTA — For more than 30 years, “Red” Dawson couldn’t talk about it.

Who could blame him? The Valdosta native had lived through a thing of nightmare, a terror that lurks beneath the subconscious. What would you do if almost everyone you worked with, people entrusted to your care, were suddenly killed? And you weren’t there? You survived?

That’s what “Red” Dawson has had to endure.

On Nov. 14, 1970, 75 Marshall University football coaches, players, a few parents, fans and the crew died in a plane crash in Wayne County, W.Va. Less than a handful of players weren’t on board. One assistant coach was on the road recruiting when the plane went down.

That assistant coach was “Red” Dawson.

Now, the aftermath of the Marshall University crash is the subject of a movie, “We Are Marshall,” which opened this weekend, starring Matthew McConaughey as Coach Jack Lengyel and Matthew Fox as “Red” Dawson.

Dawson, who grew up in Valdosta, played football for Valdosta High, and still has family here — mother Lucille White and sister Lucille Sineath — spoke to The Valdosta Daily Times by phone a few days before his scheduled Christmas visit to Valdosta.

The Crash has always been a very public tragedy, but Dawson’s very private pain is now being portrayed by the actor best known for his role in the television show “Lost.” How difficult has it been to have The Crash resurrected as a Hollywood movie?

“It was a healing process,” says Dawson, who participated deeply with Warner Brothers on the film. “I can’t tell you how much. For 35 years, I didn’t talk about it. I kept it all inside. I didn’t address the issue. Emotionally, I just couldn’t talk about it. But it seems to me since the movie started, it’s been easier to talk about it. The more I’ve talked about it, the easier it’s become.”

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