James L. (Jimmy) Lawson was born May 2,1899, at the Lawson home, one mile from Lawson’s Bridge, on Pea River, in Pike County, Alabama. His parents were the late Mr. A. L. Lawson and Mrs. Emma Dozier Lawson, both of whom were descendants of pioneer families. Jimmy Lawson grew up on a farm where agriculture and nature lore were an intimate part of his background. He attended a one-room, one-teacher school in the Myers community. After teaching a country school for one year, he attended Business College in Montgomery and then volunteered for army service in World War I. He was in active combat service, beginning with the St. Mihiel drive, and ending with the Armistice on November 11, 1918. He was selected from his unit to attend the A. E. F. University, Beaune, France, returning from Beaune in time to be discharged from the service and enter the Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn in the fall of 1919. While a student at Auburn, Jimmy was actively affiliated with almost every facet of student activity. He was an active member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, served as a student class officer, was President of the Y. M. C. A., and was a member of Spades, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Sigma Delta, Alpha Phi Epsilon, and a member of the debating team of the Wilsonian Literary Society.
After graduation from Auburn in the spring of 1923, Jimmy worked with the Veteran’s Administration until January 16, 1924, when he became County Agent of Marengo County, Alabama. After two years service in Marengo, he was transferred to the same position in Hale County where he remained as County Agent until March 1, 1937. At that time, Brother Lawson and his family moved from their home in Greensboro to Auburn where he began work as District Agent for the A. P. I. Extension Service. He later served as Assistant Director and Associate Director of the Extension Service, holding the latter position until February, 1959. Brother Lawson still remains with the Extension Service, with his home and headquarters in Auburn.
In October, 1925, Jimmy was married to Mabel Taylor Yerby, the daughter of the late Editor William E. W. Yerby of the Greensboro Watchman. Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Lawson. Susan Lawson Birch, the wife of Dr. W. E. Birch, lives in Wendell, North Carolina. Mabel Yerby Lawson, II, died in an automobile accident in 1949, and Jimmy Lawson, Jr., makes his home at present with his parents in Auburn. Mr. and Mrs. Lawson have one grandson, David Elliott Birch of Wendell, North Carolina. Mr. Lawson is a member of the Methodist Church and served for many years as a Steward in the Auburn Methodist Church.
Jimmy was initiated in Auburn Lodge No. 76 while a senior at Auburn and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason prior to his graduation in the spring of 1923. His membership was again returned to the Auburn Lodge soon after he moved to Auburn in 1937. He became an active member of the lodge and took a leading part in securing an adequate lodge hall and other accommodations for the Auburn Lodge and affiliated organizations. He is a Past Master of the Auburn Lodge and has been active in degree work. In 1951, Brother Lawson was appointed Chairman of the Farm Committee of the Grand Lodge. Since then he has worked actively with the Grand Masters, Board of Control, and Superintendents of the Masonic Home. The 276 acres of land at the Home not used for buildings and recreational purposes has been cleared and used to produce milk, meat, eggs, and vegetables for consumption at the Home. The first job in 1951 was to get the land cleared and drained to make it usable for agricultural purposes and to get rid of insects being raised on marshy areas. The dairy herd on the Farm is being constantly improved through a good breeding program. Surplus food products are sold on the local market, providing funds to assist in the operation of the Home. Brother Lawson’s agricultural training and administrative experience have been reflected in the operation of the Masonic Home and Farm in Montgomery.
In November, 1956, Brother Lawson was elected R. W. Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama and has been regularly advanced since that date and on November 18, 1959, was elected and installed Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alabama.
He was initiated in Auburn Lodge No. 76 on February 16, 1923, Passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on March 17, 1923, and Raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on May 5, 1923. He demitted from Auburn Lodge No. 76 on March 17, 1924 and affiliated with St. Albans Lodge No. 22 on March 25, 1924 from Auburn Lodge No. 76, demitted from St. Albans Lodge No. 22 on December 26, 1926; affiliated with LaFayette Lodge No. 26 on April 10, 1927 and demitted June 10, 1941 and affiliated with Auburn Lodge No. 76 by demit from LaFayette Lodge No. 26, on July 28, 1941. He served as Worshipful Master of Auburn Lodge No. 76 from June, 1945 to June, 1946.
He received his Capitular degrees in Myles J. Greene Chapter No. 80 R. A. M. as follows: Mark Master, October 6, 1959; Past Master, October 6, 1959; Most Excellent Master, October 20, 1959; Royal Arch, November 3, 1959.
He received the Cryptic degrees in Chattahoochee Council No. 83 R. & S. M. on January 23, 1960. He received the Orders of the Temple on November 25,1959, in Opelika Commandery No. 28, K. T. He was initiated in Alcazar Temple A. A. O. N. M. S. in Montgomery on December 4, 1959. He was initiated in Auburn Chapter No. 57, Order of the Eastern Star, on August 7, 1941.
Jimmy, as he is affectionately known to a host of friends, is affable and kind, faithful and devoted to his duties. He is sincere and honest in his motives and in every position of trust or service to which he has been called, he has proved himself “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”