Rev. Lawson's best friend and former Mayor remember 'Houston's Pastor'

Known as "Houston's Pastor," Reverend William Lawson actually touched lives all across the country. Reverend Lawson's reach was far beyond the walls of the church he founded, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Third Ward.

The 95-year-old would have celebrated another birthday next month, but he passed away Tuesday morning. His best friend, Howard Jefferson, spent time with him in some of his last moments.

SUGGESTED: Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church founder Rev. William Lawson dies at 95

"We all told him we loved him, and we all thanked him for his leadership. He didn't seem to be in any pain, just smiling, and every now and then, he'd take a short nap, and he would smile at us again," Jefferson explains.

Rev. Lawson was loved by many and not only worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. King stayed with the Lawsons when he was in Houston.

"Pastor Lawson was not just a leader of the African American community, he was a leader of Houston. So, when he spoke, people from all walks of life tended to listen. He was a voice of reason, as well as principle, and he set a model for a whole lot of people in this community. I hope including me," says former Houston Mayor Bill White.  

Not only did Mayor White call upon Reverend Lawson when he was in office, decades ago, during a civil rights rally, a police chief telephoned Reverend Lawson's wife Audrey, "And said look we need to speak to Reverend Lawson to help calm down these kids. Mrs. Lawson said he's in your jail down there with you," Jefferson laughs.

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Mrs. Audrey Lawson passed away in 2015. One of Jefferson's daughters is named after her.

How did Rev. Lawson change or impact Houston? "He probably had as much impact as anyone in converting this from a southern segregationist city to an international city which celebrates diversity and is one of the most diverse communities in the country," White said.

Reverend Lawson was part of the trio known as the "Three Amigos," with Rabbi Samuel Karff and Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza. They may have been from different backgrounds, but they worked together to get things done.

Rev. Lawson was an intellect, a man of his word, who worked to deescalate and not inflame and, even in his last days, "He was at peace. I assure you of that," says Jefferson.

"Rev. Lawson, we ought to celebrate what was a life well lived. I was there at his last service that he conducted as head pastor at Wheeler. He had sort of an iron will, but expressed in a soft voice. (Very soft, but his message was conveyed loud and clear). Loud and clear, and it was consistent," White adds.

"I never met Jesus Christ. So he's the greatest person I have ever met," says Jefferson.