10/31/07 - NNHS Newsletter - Bill Lawson

William Edward Lawson, Jr.
(d. 28 Oct 2007)

Newport News High School Class of 1940

Dear Friends and Schoolmates,   

   We have yet another sad edition of the NNHS Newsletter this morning.  Former Newport News City Manager William E. Lawson Jr., Class of 1940, passed away Sunday, October 28, 2007 in Newport News at the age of 84.

From the Daily Press - 10/30/07:

Lawson remembered as effective leader

The former city manager, who played a key role in the purchase of Oyster Point, died Sunday.

October 30, 2007
NEWPORT NEWS - Former Newport News City Manager William E. Lawson Jr., who began buying the land in Oyster Point that later became a vital part of the city, died Sunday afternoon.

Lawson, 84, who grew up on Post Street in Hilton Village, was city manager from 1965 to 1976.

He helped carry out the acquisition of the Oyster Point land, between Jefferson Avenue and Interstate 64, from J. Clyde Morris Boulevard to Oyster Point Road. The land once swamp previously was owned by the federal government to house U.S. Air Force ammunition storage bunkers, said Newport News City Councilman William Haskins.

"He had to manage that process, and he did a good job," Haskins said. "We got a tremendous return on our investment."

Bill Lawson

The land was drained and developed and now is a key section of the city. It is not only home to offices and manufacturing sites, but also became the site of City Center at Oyster Point, a public-private shopping and residential development surrounding a central fountain. City offices are increasingly being based there instead of downtown.

Haskins said Lawson also was involved in establishing Newport News Park. Though the park was the vision of his predecessor, Joseph C. Biggins, who held the city manager's job for 40 years, Lawson "brought it to fruition."

Lawson's tenure wasn't without controversy. The City Council asked him to resign in 1976, following Lawson's ouster of a police chief and an assistant city manager. Though the moves were Lawson's prerogative, some on the City Council were miffed he didn't run it by them first.

Haskins was one of the council members who asked for Lawson's resignation, but Haskins said Lawson never held a grudge. The two lived near each other in the Hidenwood section, and they spoke when they saw each other.

"He was a wonderful person, as good a guy as you are ever going to meet," Haskins said. The past dispute "had nothing to do with to do with his individual character. I just disagreed with him on certain things with the city."

Aubrey Fitzgerald, who served on the City Council for 18 years, remembers Lawson being "a fine person, a very effective city manager, and most people liked him."

Fitzgerald, who was new to the council at the time, said Lawson helped her understand the City Council's inner workings.

Lawson, the son of a longtime Newport News Shipbuilding employee, attended Newport News High School and Virginia Military Institute. He served in the Army during World War II and spent time with the Army's Counterintelligence Corps. A certified professional engineer, he also was the city manager in Buena Vista in west central Virginia, Delray Beach, Fla., and St. Augustine, Fla.

He came to Newport News in 1962 to become director of the city's public works department. When he became city manager in 1965, Mayor Donald Hyatt said the fact that Lawson was born and bred here "gives him a familiarity with the broader Peninsula picture that only comes with years of residency." While in his office, Lawson kept his name in the telephone directory and would answer calls from citizens.

After his tenure ended 11 years later, Lawson worked as a private real estate broker and with the Salvation Army and area library boards. He often spent time woodworking, playing pool at home and cooking lasagna and chili. His first wife, Ann Weston Lawson, died in the late 1980s. The couple had two children, Deborah Lawson and William E. Lawson III.

His second wife, Audre Sharpe Lawson, got reacquainted with Lawson after running into him at their 50-year high school reunion in early 1990. They were married in late 1991. They spent time traveling to Europe, Costa Rica and around the United States, she said, and "he always wanted to make sure he knew what was going on" with city government.

Lawson hardly ever got sick, she said, and would never complain about his health. But in recent years, Audre Lawson noticed he would sit on a bench to take a breather while they were out shopping. "He just said 'I'll catch up with you,' and I'd go ahead and do the shopping," she said. "He always was a perfect gentleman."

A month ago, Lawson moved to the James River Convalescent Home. He died of heart problems, Audre Lawson said.

"His heart just gave out," she said Monday. "Nobody really thought he'd die. I most of all."

Visitation for Lawson will be held Friday at the W.J. Smith Funeral Home, on Harpersville Road, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the North Riverside Baptist Church, with burial service at Peninsula Memorial Park.


From the Daily Press - 10/31/07:

 William Edward Lawson, Jr.
  NEWPORT NEWS - William Edward Lawson Jr., 84, died Saturday, Oct. 28, 2007.

He was a lifelong resident of Newport News and was the City Manager of Newport News from 1965 to 1976. He was a member of North Riverside Baptist Church where he served as a deacon and was a lifetime member of the Advisory Board for The Salvation Army.

Bill graduated from VMI and was a U.S. Army veteran of WWII.

He is survived by his loving wife of 16 years, Audre Sharpe Atkins Lawson; three children, Deborah Ann Davis, William E. Lawson III, and William Reed Atkins Jr., and his wife, Nancy; and three grandchildren, William E. Lawson IV, William Atkins, and Amanda Atkins
Bill Lawson  

The family will receive friends from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, at W. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at North Riverside Baptist Church with Dr. R. Furman Kenney and the Rev. Joshua Speight officiating. Burial will follow in Peninsula Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to North Riverside Baptist Church, 311 Selden Road, Newport News, VA 23606, or to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 7529 Hampton, VA 23666.

Arrangements by W. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home.

Published in the Daily Press on 10/31/2007.
Guest Book


William, Deborah and I are so sorry to hear of your loss. We know that your father will be reunited with all those he loved. He will be missed by those he left behind.
Kenneth Potts, Jr. (Chula Vista, CA) - October 31, 2007
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Sorry to hear of your Loss. May the Good, loving memories you have had together stay with you the rest of your days to remind you of his life and spirit! -Randy Hudgins (Former Co-worker of W.E. Lawson III at Gibbs & Cox & Resident of Riverside Community)
Lewis Hudgins (Hampton, VA) - October 31, 2007
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   Our sincerest sympathies are extended to the entire Lawson family at this time.

   Y'all take good care of each other!  TYPHOONS FOREVER!  We'll Always Have Buckroe!

                          Love to all, Carol


NNHS CLASS OF '65 WEB SITE: http://www.nnhs65.00freehost.com

PERSONAL WEB SITE: http://www.angelfire.com/weird2/cluckmeat


Carol Buckley Harty
219 Four Ply Lane
Fayetteville, NC 29311-9305

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