Dr. James Lawson - Architect of Lunch Counter Sit-ins

Celebrating the fruits of nonviolence

3/21/2013, 10:06 a.m.

As the country celebrated African American History Month, Dallas paid tribute to Dr. James M. Lawson Jr., “the architect of lunch counter sit-ins.”

The 81-year-old pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles was the guest speaker during St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church services on Jan. 31.

After thanking Pastor Zan Holmes for his introduction, Lawson talked about their relationship through the years and how Holmes inspired and encouraged him, as a minister, a prophet, a leader, a teacher and so on. He then gave an account of a time when he visited Dallas in the early ‘50s and wanted to go with a White friend of his to the Ice Capades – a traveling theatrical show featuring performances by ice skaters. During that time in history, Blacks were not allowed to attend, and yet Lawson somehow circumvented the discriminating policy and went with his friend anyway.

As Lawson continued his message, he recalled injustices that can be traced as far back as during the lifetime of Jesus Christ. Lawson illustrated the peaceful message of Christ … a message stating that God’s grace is open to all men, not just one group or certain groups … a message that God’s love can transcend the retaliation of the oppressors … a message that we don’t have to have the powers that Jesus had to surrender to God and allow him to defeat the oppressors through our peaceful protests.

“To have Dr. Jim Lawson stand in the pulpit of St. Luke was awesome and a tremendous historic experience,” said Rev. Tyrone Gordon, senior pastor of St. Luke. “Knowing the role he played in the Civil Rights Movement, it was as if we had a piece of history standing in our midst! He has been a foot soldier for justice for so long, that we were honored to have him with us. He stood at Dr. King’s side and we were able to present him to a whole new generation. It was such a blessing.”

Lawson was also the guest of honor during the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-ins celebration on Feb. 1.

The celebration commemorated the birth of an era when the Black youth of America decided to take a stand on equality through sit-ins at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. Lawson led the way as a mentor for the students that led the sit-ins.

Lawson spoke passionately on issues that still loom over America.

“Racism, sexism, violence and greed are all interrelated,” said Lawson. “They are the main problems in this country. How is it that you want to perfect democracy in Iraq if you have not perfected democracy at home? More ordinary people have a better idea of democracy and fairness than big business.”

The anniversary celebration, sponsored by the Dallas Peace Center, was held at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. About 150 people experienced an evening of performances and civil rights songs, coordinated by local activist Ernest McMillan.

“The Civil Rights Movement was about social justice. It was about people having dignity,” said McMillan. “It was about mothers going shopping downtown and being able to have their children try on the shoes inside the store.”