Reverend James Lawson left an indelible mark on Nashville
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Reverend James Lawson left an indelible mark on Nashville

  • Dr. Forrest Harris is president of American Baptist College, one of four historically black colleges and universities in Nashville, Tennessee.

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Reverend James Morris Lawson, Jr. at American Baptist College. He was a prominent figure in the pursuit of justice and a staunch advocate of peaceful civil disobedience.

Reverend Lawson’s family announced that he had died at the age of 95 from a cardiac arrest. James Lawson’s legacy has had a profound impact on the history of our nation and the world and will continue to inspire generations to come.

Rev. Lawson has made a significant impact on American Baptist College and the broader Nashville community. In 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged Lawson to move to Nashville and begin teaching nonviolent civil disobedience techniques to students at historically black colleges, including American Baptist College.

The Rev. James Lawson, a civil rights legend, speaks in the Langford Auditorium on the campus of Vanderbilt University, January 18, 2016.

His teachings played a key role in the 1960 student protests against lunch counter segregation. These protests were successful in desegregating Nashville – the first city in the South to do so – and contributed to significant progress in the social justice movement in America.

Reverend Lawson was committed to justice and equality throughout his extraordinary life. His early commitment to non-violence led him to refuse military service, resulting in a two-year prison sentence, of which he served 13 months. He also studied Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violent resistance in India.