Civil Rights Leader keynote speaker for Annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration

Posted by ncarter | 01/15/2010 05:58 AM


(AUGUSTA, GA)– On January 15, 2010 Paine College,Augusta Technical College, Augusta State University and Medical College of Georgia will present the annual Tri-College Martin Luther King Day Celebration. The event will began at 12 p.m. in the Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel. This years, keynote speaker is The Reverend James Lawson, professor, pastor and civil rights leader.

Lawson first met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957, and they soon joined forces to realize their dream of starting a non-violent mass movement and continued to work with King until his death but has never given up on their shared dream of racial harmony.

Lawson was dubbed by King as “the leading nonviolence theorist in the world,” studied the Gandhian movement in India before becoming a leader in the civil rights movement. His life – including his student years at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. has been marked by an abiding faith in Christianity and non-violence, and a willingness to pay the price for those beliefs.

He served 13 months of a three-year prison sentence for refusing the draft during the Korean War, and was expelled from Vanderbilt in 1960 because of his work helping to desegregate lunch counters in downtown Nashville. After a national press uproar and threats of mass faculty resignations, a compromise allowed Lawson to complete his graduate studies at Vanderbilt University. He opted instead to complete his degree at Boston University.

Lawson went on to a career in the ministry, serving for 25 years as pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, before becoming pastor emeritus in 1999. He returned to Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1970-71 during a sabbatical, and that school recognized him in 1996 with its first Distinguished Alumnus Award. The Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni named Lawson the 2002 Walter R. Murray Distinguished Alumnus, and he was named Vanderbilt’s 2005 Distinguished Alumnus.

He continues to spend much of his time at Vanderbilt teaching, speaking and participating in discussion groups with faculty. Lawson was interviewed for the original documentary on the civil rights movement, and is delighted that another generation can view “Eyes on the Prize”. 

“It gives a picture of the scope of the (civil rights) movement,” Lawson said. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King and the movement in the black South, especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s, represents the zenith of the struggle of the American people to become the kind of people that … this idealist wants us to become.”

Vanderbilt archiving experts are cataloguing his papers, and Lawson plans to do some writing – perhaps an autobiography – based on the papers.

For more information, please contact Natasha Carter at (706) 396-7591.

Paine College is a church-related, four-year private institution. The mission of Paine College is to provide a liberal arts education of the highest quality that emphasizes academic excellence, ethical and spiritual values, social responsibility, and personal development to prepare men and women for positions of leadership and service in the African American community, the nation, and the world. Paine College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate degrees and functions partly by the generous support of The United Methodist Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and the United Negro College Fund. For additional information visit