You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (2024)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – You’re Wayne Dawson. Sometimes you walk away from the FOX-8 cameras and think, “How did this ever happen to me?”

It’s been like that for more than 40 years at the same Cleveland television station. You started as a part-timer; now you are in the prime morning news spot.

Wayne Dawson from East 128th Street on TV. Wayne Dawson, who remembers a time when you felt lost on the mean streets of Cleveland’s East Side.

“Wayne Dawson, I watch you on TV all the time,” someone often will tell you.

You smile. You pose for a picture. You shake hands. A little while later, you shake your head in pure wonder.

Then you go to your church. It’s really God’s church. But you are the pastor of Grace Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lyndhurst.

There are some Sunday mornings when you stand in the pulpit and preach the word of God ... once in a while, you pause ... just for a few seconds ... and think, “Only God could have made this happen in my life.”

That’s part of the reason you decided to write your memoir, The Seeds of Greatness Are Within You. Your co-author was Deante Young, who did a nice job telling your story.

Why do the book now?

“Because people need to know they can succeed even if they have a rough start,” you say. “God can use you in a special way.”

You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (1)

CALL ME GOGGLES

When you were in elementary school, you were the smart one. Straight A’s, good behavior in class. You wore glasses. Big round glasses with thick lenses.

“Hey, Goggles,” some kids called you. It fit, because you were the star student. Your family believed you’d be the one to go to college. You’d be the one who did something special.

Yes, your family was working-class and worked hard. But there were problems. Your parents argued. Sometimes, it was physical. Once, you pulled your father off your mother. Sometimes when they screamed at each other, you felt sick. You wanted them to stop. You wanted to disappear.

When you were in junior high, your father left home ... sort of. He’d come back, then leave again.

“In junior high, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd,” you say. “I started smoking weed and drinking wine. It was the 1970s. Super Fly and movies likes that – have lots of women, that was supposed to be the definition of a real man.”

The guys on the street seemed to have it together. They were the cool ones.

Then one night, you hopped into a car. You had a bag of marijuana. Suddenly, there was a siren. Red flashing police lights. The driver pulled over. You hid the marijuana.

Turned out the car was stolen.

You kept telling the officer you had no idea that it was a stolen car. You thought it belonged to your friend. The officer drove you to the police station. He believed your story. He called your mother. She took you home.

No charges filed.

You look back and think, “What if I had been arrested? What if I had been charged with stealing the car? What if I was charged with a felony? What if I went to jail? Would I ever have had a TV career?”

You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (2)

WHO AM I?

You were the kid who continually was the super student and even had straight A’s in the seventh grade ...

Suddenly, that kid was gone. To the streets. To skipping school. To ignoring homework assignments.

“They say when you hang around nine fools, soon you’ll be the 10th,” you tell young people today.

Those were the days and nights of too much Wild Irish Rose and Boone’s Farm. Too much marijuana.

Your mom knew it was a bad scene. But she was battling her own depression. Her marriage collapsed after she gave birth to your younger brother, William.

We need to stop here, to say that you’re not the only star in the family. Brother William is now Judge William Dawson in East Cleveland.

“Only God ... " you think when looking William and yourself.

That’s because you barely graduated from Shaw High. You had to go to summer school to earn your diploma. You knew you were better than that, but you really didn’t know where you fit into the world.

You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (3)

HOW ABOUT COLLEGE?

You had a close friend named Corteze Brown. Veteran Cleveland basketball fans of a certain well-seasoned age may remember Brown as star guard at Shaw. High. His next stop was Cuyahoga Community College-Metro, where he averaged 34 points as a sophom*ore.

Because Brown was going to college, you decided to follow him. You were out of high school, washing dishes at Lutheran Medical Center and selling a little marijuana on the side. Your mom found a bag of weed. She was angry and hurt. Your heart was broken because her heart was broken.

You decided your minor-league drug-dealing days were over.

At CCC, you took remedial math to get your academics together. You loved sports, and wanted to become a sportswriter. You joined the school paper. You later wrote some stories for the Call & Post while still in junior college.

There was something about putting together a story, something about seeing your name in print ...

The something was simple. You had a purpose. It was like you had put the goggles back on, and that over-achieving, relentless working kid who had the great grades before high school was back.

When Corteze Brown received a basketball scholarship to Kent State, you followed. Brown thought he was headed to the NBA. You thought you were destined to write sports for The Plain Dealer.

You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (4)

HOW ABOUT BROADCASTING?

At Kent State, you took your collection of stories from the CCC school paper and the Call & Post to the newspaper office. You wanted to study journalism. They told you, “We have no room for you right now, come back next year.”

You can’t explain this part. You heard a voice ... had a feeling ... something was telling you not to quit, to go to the Music & Speech department. They embraced you. They put you on the school radio station doing sports reports. You had no idea exactly what you were doing. You had no formal training.

But there you were, on the air.

Next, you were doing some TV at Kent State. In the Cleveland market, you saw two African-Americans doing the news: Leon Bibb and Bill Jaco*cks. If they could make it, why not you?

You spent four years at Kent State. You anchored the news program on the school TV station. You worked part time at WNIR, a commercial radio station known as WKNT back then. After graduating, you applied to several area TV stations. Nothing happened.

“But God ... "

A friend of yours from Kent State named April Sutton knew Virgil Dominic, the legendary news director at WJW (TV-8) in Cleveland. She mentioned you. Dominic said for you to call. You did. He checked your work. He connected you with a Minority Broadcasting Training program.

You worked on your English, smoothing out some of the “Black Dialect” as you call it. Your teacher was a speech therapist at Case Western Reserve. Within a month after leaving Kent State, you were on the air as a part-timer for TV-8.

Then it became full time as a news reporter.

When you were at Kent State, you pictured yourself doing this – being on Cleveland TV like Jaco*cks and Bibb. You wrote a list of goals and taped it to your mirror so you saw it each morning:

Wayne Dawson, TV newsman.

You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (5)

BEING PATIENT, PAYING DUES

You spent 10 years as a field reporter at Channel 8. Sometimes, you’d be on the set with Dick Goddard, Cleveland’s most popular weatherman. You’d think, “I grew up watching him on TV. Now I’m here with him.”

You knew racism was real. You dealt with it.

Stay strong. Stay with it. Stay focused. That was you in those days.

After 12 years, you became a weekend anchor. During this time, your work life was under control but your life away from the job needed work and discipline.

As a young man, you had three children with two different women. You supported your children, but had a hard time committing to marriage.

In 1996, your mother passed away at the age of 66. Something inside of you seemed to die, too. You knew for all your success on TV, something was missing. You had been dating LaVerne Reed on and off. You watched her take care of your mother in her final months.

A year later, you married LaVerne Reed on Aug. 29, 1997. You were 41 years old.

GET BACK TO WHAT MATTERS

When you were a kid, your mother took you to Bethany Baptist Church, where you loved to listen to the preaching of Pastor A.T. Rowan. You and your mom were living with your grandparents on Drexel Avenue on Cleveland’s East Side. Your grandfather (Armfield Johnson) was a deacon.

You had church in you. And later, you realized you had more than that – you had the Holy Spirit guiding you. After getting married, you and LaVerne decided it was time to get back to church.

LaVerne heard of Bishop Joey Johnson, pastor of Akron’s House of the Lord. You began attending that church. Even though you never joined, you took classes from Johnson – who became a spiritual mentor.

As you were given the morning anchor spot on FOX-8′s news in 1999, you returned to your roots at Bethany Baptist.

It’s a long story, but you became more involved in church. In 2018, the morning man on FOX-8 was installed as the pastor of Grace Tabernacle Baptist Church. You wondered what FOX-8 would think of that. Well, station general manager Paul Perozeni gave you his blessing.

“If God can change my life and bring out the seeds of greatness within me, God can do it for you,” is something you tell people.

You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (6)

YOU KEEP GOING

You have turned down offers from places such as Milwaukee and other Cleveland stations to stay at FOX-8.

You’ve survived nine general managers and eight news directors. The station has been sold seven times during your tenure. You’ve also worked with a dozen co-anchors over the decades. There have been 11 Emmy Awards, a Chuck Heaton Award and other honors.

It’s also been 23 years of getting up at 2 a.m. to help anchor Cleveland’s highest-rated morning news show. On the air from 5-9 a.m. Go to bed by 7:30 p.m.

You’re 67 and you recently signed a new five-year contract. You and your brother – Judge William Dawson – lead The Dawson Foundation. It gives out scholarships and supports events such as Coats For Kids.

You and LaVerne have been married 25 years. You have a daughter, Danielle.

You remember writing your first Call & Post stories on a typewriter. In your early days of news, they advertised “film at 11.” Film and typewriters seem like relics from the dinosaur age.

You think back to those days on the streets of East Cleveland. You think of how so many things could have gone wrong. You think of how you seemed to end up in broadcasting by accident, only it wasn’t.

Finally, you think how “God has had his hand on me, even when I didn’t know it.”

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You’ve seen FOX-8′s Wayne Dawson for 40 years, but do you really know him? – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You (2024)
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