Edward H. Lawson Sr., 1908

Edward H. Lawson Sr., photo from the Scarlet Letter yearbook

Junior photograph of Edward H. Lawson Sr. from the Scarlet Letter yearbook

Edward Howard Lawson Sr. was born in 1887 in Washington, D.C. He was the second African American student to attend Rutgers, but he was forced to withdraw from the school one semester before he was due to graduate with the class of 1908.

Lawson had attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. At the time, Dunbar High School was one of the premier secondary schools for African Americans in the nation. Lawson graduated from Dunbar in 1904 and matriculated at Rutgers the same year. In the fall of 1907, when Lawson was a senior, he was accused of stealing another student’s mail from Winants Hall. Although Lawson maintained that he was innocent of any wrongdoing, he was forced to withdraw from Rutgers. He suffered a blow to his reputation when local papers slandered him as a thief, and Rutgers officials refused to issue a rebuttal in the press.

After being forced to withdraw from Rutgers, Lawson immediately enrolled at Howard University for the remainder of his senior year and graduated on time in 1908. He then attended law school at Howard and graduated in 1911. Lawson married Florence Amy Freeman in 1911, and they had four children. After graduating from law school, Lawson worked as a teacher in Washington public schools, and he wrote daily and weekly columns for the Washington Post.

Despite being forced to leave Rutgers, Lawson considered himself a Rutgers man and a member of the class of 1908. He was active with the Rutgers Alumni Association and maintained relationships with several white classmates who believed in his innocence. His son Edward H. Lawson Jr. would graduate from Rutgers in 1933. Edward H. Lawson Sr. died in 1952 in Washington, D.C.