November 2010 Ethical Hero – Reverend James Lawson

Published: November 12, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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On the eve of his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. called his mentor Reverend James Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”

Reverend Lawson is a deeply religious man, who served in prison for being a conscientious objector during the Korean War.  After servicing in prison, he went to India and studied the Gandhian movement and nonviolence. Back in the United States, he worked with Dr. King – helping to coordinate the Freedom Rides in 1961 and the Meredith March in 1966.

While working as a pastor at the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, Reverend Lawson also played a key role in the sanitation workers strike of 1968.  He 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 currently serves a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Vanderbilt University. When Reverend Lawson speaks of nonviolence he speaks authoritatively of his experience in one of the most important nonviolent movements of the 20th century, the U.S. civil rights movement.

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