Press Release

We Remember the Legacy of Reverend William “Bill” Lawson

May 23, 2024

We remember Reverend William "Bill" Lawson, who passed away on May 14, 2024. He was a towering figure in the struggle for civil rights and social justice in Houston, Texas. Born in 1928, Rev. Lawson dedicated his life to advocating for equality, justice, and community empowerment. Lawson was part of the Three Amigos along with Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza and Rabbi Samuel Karff. The Houston faith leaders joined forces in support of civil rights for more than 50 years.

Rev. Lawson's impact was profound and far-reaching. He was the founding pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, established in 1962, which became a pivotal institution in Houston's Third Ward. Under his leadership, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church was not just a place of worship but also a hub for civil rights activism. Rev. Lawson's sermons and teachings inspired many to join the fight against racial injustice and to seek a more equitable society.

Throughout his career, Rev. Lawson was deeply involved in various social and political causes. He worked closely with prominent civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and participated in numerous protests, marches, and campaigns that aimed to dismantle segregation and promote equal rights. His advocacy extended beyond the pulpit as he engaged in community organizing, education, and mentorship, fostering a generation of leaders committed to social justice. 

Rev. Lawson's legacy is marked by his commitment to nonviolence and his belief in the power of love and compassion to bring about change. He championed education as a key to empowerment, supporting initiatives that provided educational opportunities for underprivileged youth. His work in establishing affordable housing and social services also demonstrated his holistic approach to community development.

In addition to his activism, Rev. Lawson was a beloved mentor and advisor to many, offering guidance and support to those navigating the challenges of leadership and activism. His wisdom, humility, and dedication earned him the respect and admiration of countless individuals across different walks of life.

Rev. Lawson was also very involved with the Rothko Chapel over the years. The Rothko Chapel, known for its dedication to human rights, spirituality, and the arts, served as a significant venue for Rev. Lawson's interfaith efforts and his commitment to social justice. His contributions to the Chapel's mission underscored his belief in the power of diverse faith communities working together for common good.


Rev. Bill Lawson's contributions to the civil rights movement, his community, and his involvement with the Rothko Chapel are remembered and celebrated as a testament to the enduring power of faith, love, and perseverance in the pursuit of a better world.

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