- Los Angeles Unified School District
Board Approves Naming School for the Rev. James Lawson Jr. (08-25-20)
Shannon Haber, 213-393-1289 August 25, 2020
Board Approves Naming School for Rev. James Lawson Jr.
Veteran Civil Rights leader pastored local church for 25 years
LOS ANGELES (Aug. 25, 2020) – The Board of Education today approved naming a school after Rev. James Lawson, Jr., the architect of nonviolence resistance during the Civil Rights Movement. In Los Angeles, he pastored Holman United Methodist Church for 25 years.
Now 91 years old he worked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Congressman John Lewis, who learned his nonviolent protest techniques during Rev. Lawson’s workshops for college students in Nashville. He prepared them for the downtown sit-ins that challenged legal whites-only policies at lunch counters, and the Freedom Rides, which he joined. His students also participated in the March on Washington, the voter registration campaigns in Mississippi, the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham where police turned powerful fires hoses and sicced dogs on the young protesters, and the 1965 March to Selma. He moved to Los Angeles in 1974, also taught at UCLA and continued his activism in support of the rights of workers and immigrants.
“We honor Reverend Lawson, who has spent his life in pursuit of equity and social justice for all through leadership and teaching,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said.
“The Reverend James Lawson, Jr., has inspired me for more than 40 years. This devoted follower of the non-violent activism of Ghandi, was instrumental in organizing and teaching young African-Americans this philosophy,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg, the sponsor of the resolution, said. “When he moved to Los Angeles in 1974, I began to hear him speak at his church services. It led to my active involvement in the Civil Rights Movement here in Los Angeles. This man is a national treasure, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to sit in his presence and learn from him how to struggle to become an anti-racist activist.”
“We honor the Reverend James Lawson for his leadership and brilliance, for his commitment to nonviolent resistance during the Civil Rights Movement, and his willingness to train so many in these tactics; for a life filled with sacrifices, perseverance and unending public service throughout the South and in Los Angeles even today as he anticipates turning 92 next month,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said. “I have worked with him for decades, including as a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – Los Angeles. Few have improved the laws, progress toward racial equality and the moral fabric of this nation as much as my friend Reverend Lawson.”
"The life and leadership of Rev. James Lawson Jr. teaches our students rich lessons of being a learner, a leader and agent of social change," Board Member Mónica García said. "We continue to learn and practice the principles of love and non-violence he teaches."
“Today we honor Reverend James Lawson Jr., for his teachings around the theory and practice of nonviolence as well as his invaluable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. His organizing and countless campaigns mobilized emerging civil rights leaders, religious leaders and many others in the South and throughout the nation,” Board Member Scott Schmerelson, also a co-sponsor said. “Unfortunately, racism, hatred and ignorance continue to divide our communities. It is my hope that his work and legacy inspire current and future students, activists and emerging leaders so that together they can continue the fight for equality and justice for all.”
“Schools are powerful symbols of our community values and should be named for figures whose actions and achievements we seek to uplift in the communities we serve—including leaders like Rev. James Lawson, Jr.,” Board Member Nick Melvoin said. “As the mind of the civil rights movement,” he has continued his social activism—not only for racial justice, but also for immigrant rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and to lift people out of poverty—for over 60 years. I’m grateful for his life’s work and for the opportunity to honor him in this way.”
“It’s an honor to recognize the contributions of Reverend James Lawson, whose dedicated work on civil rights brought him to Los Angeles,” Board Member Kelly Gonez said. “At a time when we are in a national push for the right leaders to be memorialized in monuments and buildings, we should be looking at individuals like Rev. Lawson who can be examples for our children.”
Photos: Vanderbilt University