Dawson Trotman's Dry Land Navigators

Published Apr 28, 2010
Dawson Trotman's Dry Land Navigators

Under the influence of alcohol, Dawson Trotman was arrested and on his way to jail. The policeman who was hauling him in looked down and asked, "Do you like this kind of life?"

"Sir, I hate it," answered Trotman. Three hours later, after Trotman sobered up in a park, the policeman returned his keys to him on the strength of a pledge to do better. That weekend, Dawson found his way to church. His Sunday school leader assigned him ten salvation verses to memorize. But three weeks later, with twenty verses in his head, he had drifted back onto the bottle and reckless behavior. This wasn't his first time in church. Although he'd been stealing since a child, he had become president of a church's young people's society. But he did not have eternal life.

Suddenly it registered with him that he could have everlasting life just as a Bible verse from the Gospel of John, chapter five promised. He prayed, "O God, whatever that means, I want to have it." Another verse flashed into his mind, "But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." Dawson pleaded to "receive" Jesus right then--whatever that meant.

His life changed. While working as a truck driver in California, he taught a sailor named Les Spencer how to live for Christ. Another sailor asked Spencer the secret of his changed life. Spencer brought the man to Trotman and asked him to teach the other man. Trotman felt exasperated. He had just spent months passing on to Spencer everything he needed to know to do the job himself. "You teach him!" he said. That was the beginning of the Navigators.

Trotman and his friends founded the Navigatorson this day, March 3, 1933. (The organization was not incorporated for another decade.) Soon Spencer and his shipmate were teaching 125 men aboard the USS West Virginia, who, in turn, taught others aboard the ships that soon would be sunk at Pearl Harbor.

Dawson Trotman, a dashing man who had been valedictorian of his class and student president, continued to put his talents to good use. The Navigators grew and grew. Today over 100,000 people subscribe to its Discipleship Journal. You may have seen other study guides and books that the organization publishes, or their prayer magazine. More than 3,000 people work for the Navigators in almost a hundred nations. That is how one man's obedience snowballed.

Trotman died in 1956, rescuing a girl from drowning. Billy Graham, whose ministry used Navigators' material, preached his funeral.


  1. "Dawson Trotman, the Discipled Life." In Touch Ministries. (www.intouch.org/myintouch/mighty/portraits/dawson_
  2. "Our Early Days." The Navigators. (http://home.navigators.org).
  3. Trotman, Dawson. Born to Reproduce. Back to the Bible Broadcast, 1967.

Last updated May, 2007.


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