Scope and Contents
This collection reflects the ministerial career of the Rev. William A. Lawson, and comprises eight boxes. Materials include sermons, letters and speeches written by Lawson, as well as photographs, bulletins and audiocassettes.
Rev. William Alexander Lawson (1929- ), is the founding Pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church located in Houston, Texas. Established in March 1962 with 13 members, the congregation has grown in excess of 3,500 members. The initial emphasis of the church was to help meet the spiritual needs of Baptists in a transitional community near Texas Southern University, but has become one of the leading Baptist churches in the city of Houston. Early in his career, Rev. Lawson served as Director of the Baptist Student Union and Professor of Bible Studies at Texas Southern University in Houston. He shared in the formation of the first Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Houston, where he taught classes in Sociology and the Black Church. Rev. Lawson is a community leader and social activist. He conceived and organized the United Way’s Houston Homeless Initiative in response to the growing number of homeless and jobless persons. More than $4 million was raised in a four-year period in support of that initiative. He established a service agency, the Central City Comprehensive Community Center to serve community needs of citizens in the inner . Rev. Lawson also was instrumental in creating a program to register and mobilize voters in the predominantly African American precincts of the city. In 1996, a group of friends gifted to Rev. Lawson a non-profit organization called the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity (’WALlPP”), to help bridge the gap between the powerful and the powerless. Through this institute, Rev. Lawson brought attention to Olivewood Cemetery, the oldest African American cemetery in the city of Houston, which through many years of neglect had become very overgrown. The attention he brought to Olivewood Cemetery cemetery was the conduit that brought together all the businesses and organizations affected by the METRO rail system traveling down Main Street, eventually to be known as The Main Street Coalition.
Rev. Lawson created the first charter school for boys grades 6 through 8 within the Houston Independent School District called the WALIPP Preparatory Academy. Rev. Lawson is the recipient of the 1991 Silver Beaver Award in support of Scouting. He organized and sponsored the area’s largest and most productive scouting program. In its 35-year history, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church’s troops have produced over 100 Eagles.
Rev. Lawson did his undergraduate work at Tennessee Aand I State University, Nashville, Tennessee where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree, returning to deliver the 1962 Baccalaureate address. He graduated cum laude from Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Kansas where he received the Master of Theology and the Bachelor of Divinity degrees. While there, he majored in New Testament Interpretation and was appointed Teaching Fellow in Homiletics. In 1986 he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Howard Payne University, in Brownwood, Texas; and in 1993, he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Houston. Rev. Lawson is married to Audrey H. Lawson, who is associated with The Ensemble Theatre. They have four children; Melanie, Cheryl, Eric and Roxanne, and two grandchildren, Robyn and Raven.