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Sat, 09.22.1928

James Lawson Jr., Professor, and Activist born

James Lawson Jr.

*James Lawson, Jr. was born on this date in 1928.  He is a Black activist and university professor.  

James Morris Lawson, Jr. was born to Philane May Cover and James Morris Lawson, Sr. in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He was the sixth of nine children. He grew up in Massillon, Ohio. Both Lawson's father and grandfather were Methodist ministers. Lawson received his ministry license in 1947 during his senior year of high school.  While a freshman at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, he studied sociology. Because he refused to serve in the US military when drafted, he was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to two years in prison. He served 13 months of his sentence and returned to college, finishing his degree. 

He joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Both FOR and CORE advocated nonviolent resistance to racism.  He went to Nagpur, India, as a Methodist missionary, where he studied satyagraha, a form of nonviolent resistance developed by Mohandas Gandhi.  He returned to the United States in 1955, entering the Graduate School of Theology at Oberlin College in Ohio. One of his Oberlin professors introduced him to Martin Luther King, Jr., who had also embraced Gandhi's principles of nonviolent resistance.

Lawson married Dorothy Wood and had three sons, John, Morris, and Seth.  In 1957, King urged Lawson to move to the South, saying, "Come now. We don't have anyone like you down there." He moved to Nashville, where he attended Vanderbilt University and began teaching nonviolent protest techniques. 

Lawson was expelled from Vanderbilt in March 1960 for civil rights arrests but received his S.T.B. from Boston University that same year. Lawson received a post as pastor of the Scott Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He later served as a pastor in Los Angeles, California, for 25 years.  Rev. Lawson retired from Holman United Methodist Church in 1999 and still lives in Los Angeles. 

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