Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Remembering the life and legacy of the Reverend James Lawson

By meerna Jun12,2024

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Before there were high schools and research institutes named after him, Reverend James Lawson was a transfer student here in Nashville working on the story of changing Nashville for the better, and it started with the Nashville sit-ins.

“Nonviolence is how the power of compassion and truth can shape every community, every gathering, every relationship and every political group,” Lawson said at the 2021 John Lewis dedication ceremony in Nashville.

For Reverend James Lawson, the solution was always nonviolence. This is what he practiced and preached to the end.

“Lawson was our originator of the peaceful protest, and Dr. King said it was the best organized student movement in Nashville,” said Professor Learotha Williams.

Williams teaches African American and public history at Tennessee State University.

He says Lawson’s impact on the civil rights movement was monumental.

Lawson died on Sunday at the age of 95.

“I reflected on his life, his life, his city, the time he spent here and how many people he influenced,” Williams said.

Lawson came to Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1958 as a 30-year-old transfer student from Oberlin School of Theology in Ohio.

Lawson came to Nashville as a Peace Staff organizer for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, as well as a theology student. He also served as the southern director of the Congress of Racial Equality and taught workshops on nonviolence techniques to students at Tennessee State University, Fisk University and Vanderbilt.

The technique quickly proved its effectiveness in Nashville’s dining halls and movie theaters, where on May 10, 1960, businesses agreed to remove “No Color” signs that enforced white supremacy.

“To put their lives on the line for a cause, and they’re not 30, 40 years old. These are people who are 18, 19, 30, 21 years old who have been inspired to do things that will change America,” Williams said.

His work as a staff organizer for the Fellowship of Reconciliation alarmed members of Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust, and for his activism, Lawson was expelled from Vanderbilt in 1960.

But that never stopped his civil rights mission.

After Lawson was fired from Vanderbilt, he said he never held any grudge against the university.

He returned as a distinguished visiting professor in 2006 and eventually donated much of his work.

A wonderful woman; school celebrates beloved teacher living with brain cancer

I think each of us remembers our favorite teachers. In many ways, they leave a mark on our lives. Have your tissue ready for Forrest Sanders’ story about Mrs. McMurray. She poured so much into her students, and they love back when it is needed most.

– Carrie Sharp

By meerna

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