Born in Pennsylvania, the cradle of our democracy, James Lawson dedicated his life to fighting for our country’s ideals. Hailing from a family of ministers, he became a disciple for freedom and a visionary of the Civil Rights Movement.

While attending Vanderbilt Divinity School, James Lawson organized sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee that led to his expulsion from the university. But he kept marching on. His organizing and civil rights activism led to the desegregation of public accommodations in Nashville, one of the first southern cities to do so. His sit-ins became a model throughout the south. 

As a mentor, he taught the likes of Diane Nash, Congressman John Lewis, and countless others about the tactics and promise of nonviolence resistance. And as a minister, he preached about how the fight for equality, dignity, and justice for all was a divine calling. It is only fitting that Vanderbilt University now boasts the James Lawson Institute in honor of a man who was the architect of the Southern Freedom Movement and, later in life, a consistent advocate for human rights.

Jill and I are saddened by the loss of one of our nation’s noblest leaders. His passing before Juneteenth is a reminder that our nation’s journey from slavery to freedom started in the hearts of people like James Lawson spellbound by freedom. We send our condolences to the Lawson family as our nation mourns a man who helped redeem the soul of our nation.


Stay Connected

Sign Up

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top