Rev. William Lawson, Renowned Great Civil Rights Leader and Houston Pastor, Dies at 95

By May 21, 2024

Rev. William Lawson, Renowned

Rev. William Lawson-Rev. William Lawson, a stalwart of the civil rights movement and a pillar of the Houston community, passed away at the age of 95, as announced by Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Rev. Lawson’s legacy is woven into the fabric of Houston, a city that he guided through periods of turbulence and transformation with his unwavering dedication to justice and equality.

Rev. William Lawson-Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928, William Alexander Lawson demonstrated early on a profound commitment to faith and social justice. He pursued his education with vigor, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Tennessee A&I State University (now Tennessee State University) and a Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. His academic pursuits were driven by a desire to meld theological principles with social activism, setting the stage for his future endeavors in the civil rights arena.

Rev. William Lawson

Rev. William Lawson-In 1962, Rev. Lawson founded the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Initially starting with just 13 members, the church quickly grew under his leadership, becoming a beacon of hope and a sanctuary for those seeking solace and guidance. For more than four decades, Lawson served as the senior pastor, fostering a community that championed civil rights and social justice.

Rev. William Lawson-Rev. Lawson’s impact extended beyond the pulpit. Martin Luther King Jr., and his church became a hub for civil rights activities in Houston. Inspired by Dr. King’s message and methods, Lawson was instrumental in establishing a local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization at the forefront of the civil rights movement. Through the SCLC, he worked tirelessly to dismantle systemic racism and promote equality.

Rev. William Lawson-One of Lawson’s notable contributions was his support for the Texas Southern University students during the sit-ins that played a pivotal role in the integration of Houston. These courageous actions by young activists were bolstered by Lawson’s guidance and the refuge his church provided. His unwavering commitment to justice earned him the respect and admiration of many, including local and national leaders.

Rev. William Lawson-Houston Mayor John Whitmire commemorated Lawson’s profound impact on the city with a moment of silence at Houston City Hall. He urged the residents to carry forward Lawson’s legacy by striving for a fair, safe, and equal Houston. “He is one of the reasons our city is so great,” Whitmire stated.
Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee echoed these sentiments, expressing her deep sorrow over Lawson’s passing. William Lawson—a Houstonian icon and pillar of our community,” she posted on X (formerly Twitter). Her tribute highlighted Lawson’s enduring influence on the city and its residents.

Rev. William Lawson-Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis also paid homage to Lawson’s legacy, describing him as a “towering figure in our community.” Ellis noted Lawson’s pivotal role in hosting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and his unwavering support for the Texas Southern University students during their fight for integration. This dedication was recently commemorated by naming a park after Rev. Lawson and his late wife, Audrey Lawson. “The Reverend William and Audrey Lawson Park will serve as a lasting tribute to their shared commitment to uplifting every member of our community.”

IRev. William Lawson-2021, Rice University honored Rev. Lawson by naming a part of its campus “The Reverend William A. Lawson Grove,” recognizing his profound contributions to both the university and the broader community. This grove stands as a testament to Lawson’s enduring impact on education, faith, and social justice.

Throughout his life, Rev. Lawson was a bridge between the powerful and the powerless, tirelessly advocating for those whose voices were often marginalized. His efforts were not confined to Houston; his influence was felt nationwide as he collaborated with other civil rights leaders to promote equality and justice. Lawson’s leadership was characterized by his deep empathy, moral clarity, and unyielding commitment to creating a better, more just society.

Under his stewardship, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church was more than just a place of worship; it became a center for social activism, community organization, and educational advancement. Lawson believed in the transformative power of education and worked to ensure that young people had access to the resources and opportunities they needed to succeed.

Lawson’s passing marks the end of an era, but his legacy continues to inspire future generations. His life’s work serves as a powerful reminder of the impact one individual can have on their community and beyond. As Houston and the nation mourn his loss, they also celebrate the indelible mark he left on the fight for civil rights and social justice.

Rev. William Lawson’s journey from a young man with a vision to a revered leader and advocate exemplifies the power of faith, perseverance, and unwavering dedication to the cause of justice. His life’s work will forever be remembered and honored, not only in Houston but across the nation. The institutions and initiatives he established stand as enduring symbols of his commitment to equality, and his memory continues to inspire those who strive to make the world a better place.

In reflecting on Rev. Lawson’s legacy, it is clear that his contributions went far beyond his immediate community. He was a national figure whose work influenced the broader civil rights movement. His ability to mobilize and inspire others was rooted in his deep faith and his belief in the fundamental dignity and worth of every individual.
As the community gathers to celebrate his life and mourn his passing, they do so with a sense of gratitude for all that Rev. Lawson accomplished. His vision and leadership have left an indelible imprint on Houston and the civil rights movement, ensuring that his legacy will endure for generations to come. Rev. William Lawson’s life is a testament to the enduring power of faith, community, and the relentless pursuit of justice.

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