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AFSCME mourns the loss of the Rev. James Lawson

The Rev. James Lawson (center, gray suit) in 2018, during the 50th year commemoration of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike. Beside him in the green jacket is AFSCME President Lee Saunders. AFSCME Photo.
AFSCME mourns the loss of the Rev. James Lawson
By Pete Levine ·
Tags: Our Stories

AFSCME mourns the loss of its friend and ally the Rev. James Lawson, an educator, activist, pastor and civil rights pioneer, who was instrumental in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike. Lawson died Monday at the age of 95 in Los Angeles.

In a statement, AFSCME President Lee Saunders praised Lawson as “one of the greatest architects of social change in recent American history.”

“No one was more courageously committed than Rev. James Lawson to the philosophy of nonviolent resistance — both as a moral imperative and an effective strategy for the pursuit of justice,” said Saunders.

Lawson used those techniques during the lunch counter sit-in movement and the Freedom Rides. His connection to AFSCME dates back to the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, when he led the faith coalition in the community on behalf of the workers and persuaded his friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to join the struggle.

“That was just one of many campaigns he undertook on behalf of the labor movement,” said Saunders. “A belief in the dignity of work underpinned everything he did. Rest in power, Rev. Lawson. Your legacy will inspire generations to continue organizing for racial, social and economic justice.”

To learn more about the Rev. James Lawson and hear him in his own words, listen to AFSCME’s I AM Story podcast

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