Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lila Diane Sawyer

I had heard over the years that we, Dunagans, are related to Diane Sawyer of ABC, CBS, 60 Minutes, 20/20, Co-anchor Good Morning America(GMA) fame. Often people like to claim to be related to famous people but I never took it very seriously until recently. I received in the mail a genealogical newsletter, Dunnagans of All Spellings from Dick Dunagan. On page 3 there was a short article called "Looking For Diane's Story" and a newspaper clipped photo copy showing Diane Sawyer standing with her family in Wayne County, KY, after attending the funeral of her grandmother Nora Bell Dunagan in 1982. Well, I became intrigued....and this is what I found.

Born Lila Diane Sawyer in Glasgow, Kentucky, Sawyer is the daughter of Jean Wray Dunagan, an elementary school teacher, and Erbon Powers "Tom" Sawyer, a judge. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where her father rose to local prominence as a Republican politician and community leader; he was Kentucky's Jefferson County Judge/Executive when he was killed in a car accident on Louisville's Interstate 64 in 1969. E. P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, located in the Frey's Hill area of Louisville, is named in his honor.

Sawyer attended Seneca High School in the Buechel area of Louisville. In 1963, she won the "America's Junior Miss" scholarship pageant as a representative from the State of Kentucky. In 1967, she received a bachelor of arts degree with a major in English from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She attended one semester of law school at the University of Louisville before turning to journalism. Sawyer then became a local television news reporter and weather girl for WLKY-TV in Louisville.

In 1970, White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler hired her to serve in the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon. Sawyer continued through Nixon's resignation from the presidency in 1974 and worked on the Nixon-Ford transition team in 1974–1975, after which she decamped with Nixon to California and helped him write his memoirs, published in 1978. She also helped prepare Nixon for his famous set of television interviews with journalist David Frost in 1977. The rest is in the history books.

Well it turns out that there is a family connection. Diane's 5th great grandfather was Thomas "Tommy" Dunagan born around 1744 in Orange County, North Carolina. He served as a Pvt. in the Revolutionary War from NC from Apr 25 1776 until he was mustered out on January 1778. Thomas "Tommy" Dunagan was a brother to My 5th great grandfather Joseph Dunagan.

Thomas "Tommy" Dunagan married a Martha "Patsy" (last name unknown) and they had a son named Isaac who was born around 1765 in Orange County, NC but as an adult later moved to Wayne County, KY, died around 1822. Isaac married Mary "Polly" West and had a son named Solomon. Solomon married two women, 1st. wife was Elizabeth Turpin, 2nd wife was Sarah "Sally" Fox with whom he had a son named Solomon Henry Harrison Dunagan born April 28, 1841.

Solomon Henry Harrison Dunagan married Mary Matilda Lovell of Wayne County, KY on November 11, 1860. (Feth)Lafayette Dunagan was born from this union on July 9, 1868. Lafayette is Diane Sawyer's great grandfather. He married Mary Alta Weaver on December 25, 1888, in Wayne County, KY.

Lafayette and Mary "Alta" had a son they named Foxie B. Dunagan born around 1891. Foxie married Nora Bell Roberts and this is the grandmother whose funeral Diane attended in 1982 in Wayne County, KY. I wish I knew what the initial B stands for in Foxie's name.

Foxie and Nora Bell Dunagan's daughter is Jean Wray Dunagan, Diane's mother.

(Click on to enlarge)

Picture below: Foxie Dunagan is third person from left on back row standing with hand on hip wearing overalls and hat. (photo taken circa 1911)

Sources: Various/ Of All Spellings Issue 2009 published by Dick Dunagan/Newspaper article/photo from Hatha Dunagan Dodge

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