Houston (KIAH) – Rev. William D. Lawson is known for his pioneering role in guiding Houston and Texas Southern University through the period of desegregation. The civil rights leader was a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., who would stay with him during visits to Houston.

Lawson served as the director of the Baptist Student Union and was a professor of Bible at Texas Southern University from 1960-70. His involvement with the Civil Rights Movement began when fourteen TSU students held a sit-in protesting segregation at a lunch counter. 

During the same time, he founded Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

Lawson was born in St. Louis, Mo. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Tennessee A. & I. State University in Nashville (1950). He returned to Kansas City to attend Central Baptist Theological Seminary, which conferred upon Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees.

Lawson headed the Houston chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for over three decades.