President Garfield’s light & our client commitment

James A. Garfield
Photo courtesy of

In the 1860s, on the site of our company’s Washington, DC headquarters, a public-spirited and committed American built a house for himself and his family. That man was James A. Garfield and at the time he was a U.S. Representative from northeast Ohio.

Congressman Garfield served until 1880 when the American people elected him the 20th President of the United States. Unfortunately, he was felled by an assassin’s bullet on July 2, 1881, barely four months after his inauguration. President Garfield passed away on September 19th and was succeeded by Vice President Chester Arthur.

While his Presidency was brief, Garfield nevertheless left behind a career in public service marked by thoughtfulness, reason and above all, high ethical standards. At Dawson & Associates, these qualities have been our cornerstone since our founding in 1997. Specifically, we have sought to emulate the values and dedication that characterized this man’s life including:

  • Solid preparation.In the Civil War, Brigadier General Garfield was known as a hard-charging commander and he clearly understood the importance of preparation. As chairman of the Military Affairs, Banking and Appropriations committees, Garfield showed similar dedication to preparedness for every encounter.
  • Creative solutions. In 1869, Chairman Garfield directed a special subcommittee tasked with modernizing the U.S. Census. He worked long days but never complained because the issue required thoughtful analysis “not distorted by partisan politics.”As a result of his leadership, the U.S. Census was vastly improved. No longer did U.S. marshals go door-to-door. Instead, as Garfield recommended, enumerators were hired based on ability, not political drag. This experiment worked so well that it formed the basis for Chairman Garfield’s subsequent effort to reform U.S. civil service rules.At Dawson & Associates, we take pride not only in our team members’ deep reservoir of experience and their abilities to craft creative solutions for our clients that not only address current needs but that also can help alleviate future problems. For more about this experience, please click here.
  • Fiscal realism.During four years chairing the House Appropriations Committee, Garfield brought order and discipline to a process that had been devoid of both. At the time, the Executive Branch had no centralized budget office so each department lobbied Congress for money. Garfield introduced line-item specificity, so that a department at its own whim could not divert money from one function to another. The team at Dawson & Associates is sensitive to our clients’ fiscal needs and keenly understands government and private sector budgeting because almost all of us have been intimately involved in those processes — in some cases, for decades.

Incidentally, for more information about President Garfield, click here for his White House biography.


Edward Cowan, a retired New York Times reporter and longtime friend of our firm: Five miles south of Lake Erie, beneath a thick canopy of beech and maple trees, stands the rambling Mentor, Ohio home of James A. Garfield, who served nine terms in the House of Representatives and, in 1881, six months as the 20th President of the United States before he died of an assassin’s gunshot wound. In 1880, from the long porch that faces broad Mentor Avenue, Garfield campaigned for the White House in a homespun way: he addressed visitors who came to hear the Republican candidate.  Garfield bought the house and farm in 1876 and gradually enlarged it. (As a Congressman he had already built a home in Washington on a site now occupied by D&A’s office.) Visitors to Lawnfield, as the Mentor home is called, can see Garfield’s extensive library, the Queen Anne style addition that the widowed Lucretia Garfield built in the 1880s, and the adjacent building that served as an 1880 campaign headquarters and telegraph station.  Maintained by the National Park Service, the site offers a film about Garfield and a guided tour of the home. Parking and entry are free. (Photos by Edward Cowan.)