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James Arlis Dawsey

November 12, 1935 — November 29, 2023

Aiken, SC

James Arlis Dawsey, 88, peacefully reached the heavenly end zone on November 29th, 2023 after an 88 year touchdown run. He was surrounded by his loving family cheering him on.

On the field, Dawsey played a variety of positions: Coach, Teacher, Principal, Administrator, Counselor, National Guardsman, Husband, Dad, Papa and Friend. But he treasured none more than his role as Husband, Dad and Papa. He lived a full life of service.

He is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Johnie Smith Dawsey; Daughter: Marta Dawsey Thomas (John); Sons: Craig Dawsey (Laura); Jared Dawsey (Bronwyn); Ashley Dawsey (Cam); and Grandchildren: Jordan Dawsey; Ethan Dawsey; Cody Brundage (Bobby); Spencer Brundage (Christina); Kingsley Brundage; Millie Brundage; Joel Thomas; Smith Dawsey (Kara); McCullough Dawsey; Arlis Dawsey; Bayer Dawsey; and Calla Dawsey.

Arlis Dawsey was born in 1935 in the farming community of Aynor, SC the youngest of 8 children and the son of a farmer and an educator. At a young age, he learned the value of hard work, learned how to plant and sow seeds that would yield a good crop, and excelled at academics and athletics. These values served as a compass for his life and legacy. After graduating in 1957 from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in education he earned his master’s in administration from Western Carolina University. He came to Aiken Area 1 schools in 1957 teaching PE and Math and coaching football, basketball, soccer, and track at Aiken Junior High then rotated between there and Kennedy Middle School with the same duties. He then served full time at Kennedy for 5 years before moving to Aiken High School as coach from 1964-68. In 1968 he took his first administrative job as principal of Aiken Junior High and in 1980 was named the first principal of the new South Aiken High School where he served until his retirement in 1995.

In a retirement interview he said what he enjoyed most about life as an educator has been the association with people, especially students and reflected he’d had two careers, one as a coach and the other as a teacher and an administrator. Each had its rewards though each manifested itself differently. Rewards from coaching are clearly defined by winning but administratively it wasn’t that simple. It required vicariously appreciating students’ accomplishments. “You live through the eyes of that youngster.”

Known in a variety of roles but also known by many names: Coach Dawsey, Mr. Dawsey, Jim, Arlis, Dad, Papa, he impacted so many lives in 88 years and taught us all so many valuable lessons regardless of how he crossed your path. His knack for inspiring his students, teams, staff and family to do their best and excel in whatever they pursued in life with fairness, strength and integrity is his legacy.

He leaves this legacy of Integrity, Respect, Fairness, Strength, Hard Work, and Commitment to Purpose as he walks onto that heavenly field with a football in one hand, a clip board in the other, and starts preparing the field and watering the grass for the next season. May we all be so blessed to have known him and been inspired by him!

A memorial service celebrating the life of James A. Dawsey will be held on December 15th at Aynor Methodist Church, 1007 Elm St., Aynor, SC at 2:00 PM.

In lieu of flowers, please direct memorials to: South Aiken High School Athletic Booster Club, PO Box 5314, Aiken, SC 29804.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Arlis Dawsey, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, December 15, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Aynor Methodist Church

1007 Elm St
Aynor, SC 29511

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