Rev. Bill Lawson: Funeral held for civil rights icon, founder of Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church

Friday, May 24, 2024
Rev. Bill Lawson: Funeral held for civil rights icon, founder of Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church
Friday marked the second celebration of Houston's pastor Reverend William Lawson, a pillar in the community and known for his soft-spoken demeanor at Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church was filled with thousands to honor the life of founder Reverend William A. Lawson, a civil rights icon and respected clergyman, in a final service.

Rev. Lawson, also known as "Houston's pastor," died on May 14 at 95.

During his service on Friday, more than 20 speakers took the stage to share memories about the late pastor, including Mayor John Whitmire, former mayor Sylvester Turner, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, Lakewood Pastor Joel Osteen, and Beth Israel's Rabbi David Lyon.

"Wheeler, you've been blessed and highly favored," an impassioned Turner said. "Houston, we have been blessed and highly favored. To God be the glory for the good he has done. Rest in peace, William Alexander Lawson."

His daughters, longtime ABC13 anchor, Melanie, Roxanne, and Cheryl took the stage together to share memories.

"A lot of people have thanked us for sharing our parents and assumed that all that time away from us was painful to us like we were cheated, but the truth is we gained so much more as a result of that," Melanie said.

On Thursday night, a celebration was held consisting of songs and stories for the man who grew Wheeler Avenue from 13 parishioners in 1962 to more than 12,000 today.

RELATED: Rev. Bill Lawson, founder of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and civil rights icon, dies at 95

He retired in 2004 but continued on as Pastor Emeritus.

He was a pastor, an equality trailblazer, and a bridge builder.

"Despite his soft-spoken demeanor, Rev. Lawson's impact was profound. He had a unique ability to convey powerful and sometimes difficult messages with gentle words, inspiring change and reflection," Martin Cominsky, CEO and president of Interfaith Ministries, told the packed cathedral.

"I will cherish the gift that he gave me. I am honored to have known him, to get that big hug from him, that big smile that made my heart melt, and a prayer that would carry me through the day," Eileen Morris of The Ensemble Theater said during the service.

WATCH: Lawson Legacy: How Reverend Bill Lawson became Houston's Pastor

"I wanted to be a cartoonist" Instead, Reverend Bill Lawson became Houston's Pastor. "Lawson's Legacy" has candid, never-heard-before stories of his life's journey including peacefully integrating Houston, tireless community outreach, and how a letter written on a dare led to the love of his life.

The public was invited to a visitation to pay their respects to Lawson, who lay in repose earlier that day.

Lawson worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement and founded Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church with his wife, Audrey. The couple was married for 61 years before she died in 2015.