By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
“This is Big Bill D, the D is for D-a-w-s-o-n,” was a familiar phrase heard by Portsmouth radio listeners for decades.
Word came earlier in the week that Bill Dawson, 92, formerly of WNXT and WPAY radio stations, and host of “Burnt Toast and Coffee Time,” had died Monday in Greenfield, Ohio.
Dawson enlisted in the Marine Corp for five years on July 8, 1940, having served in Cuba, Coco Solo Balboa, C.Z., Guadalcanal, Pearl Harbor, on D-Day and the Johnson Islands.
After he received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, Dawson began his professional life as a radio personality in Akron. He then moved to Portsmouth, and worked for more than 30 years at WPAY and WNXT radio.
He was best known for his on-air characters and often alter egos: Wrangler Will from over the Hill, Big Bill D., Homer Higginbottom, Ellsworth X, Sally Sparks, and Wild Indian Bill, but was proudest of his efforts to begin a Christian inspirational, educational and motivational alternative radio/television format at WPAY and WCOL in Columbus, in the 1960s. Bill attended and was active in the founding of Christ’s Community Church.
“He was, in my opinion, one of the three or four people that were really instrumental in a way that we hadn’t planned in launching our church,” Christ’s Community Church Pastor Scott Rawlings said. “He found a way at Burnt Toast and Coffee Time to mention something that happened at church every day when the church first began in 1970.”
Rawlings said Dawson had distinguished military and broadcast careers.
“He was, in the real sense of the word, a patriot,” Rawlings said. “Those old boys from the Second World War were. He, in my opinion was one of those guys who was high profile. Half the world around here listened every morning to Dawson’s Dinky Diner. You never knew what he was going to say next because he didn’t. We all got a giggle out of that.”
Funeral services were conducted Thursday at Christ’s Community Church in Portsmouth with Scott Rawlings officiating. Graveside military rites were performed Friday in Memorial Burial Park by the James Irwin and William A. Baker posts of the American Legion. Arrangements were under the direction of the McKinley Funeral Home in Lucasville.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.