Dr. William Emmett Lawson was born in
Detroit on November 24, 1922. He is the second child
of Dr. William H. Lawson and Florence E. Lewis Lawson.
His father, a 1912 graduate of the Toronto School of
Optometry in Toronto, Canada, was the first black optometrist
in the United States and Canada. He graduated from Northwestern
High School in 1940 and entered the Northern Illinois
College of Optometry.
and passing the State Board examination in 1944 before
reaching the age of 21 earned him the distinction of
being the youngest optometrist ever licensed at that
time. He joined his father's optometry practice, but
was soon drafted into the military. He returned to that
practice upon his discharge from the military and remained
there until his father's death in 1966.
E. and William H. Lawson serviced a number of factory
workers who made weaponry by furnishing them with specialized
glasses necessary to produce precision instruments.
He has continued his advanced training in optometry,
concentrating in the areas of contact lens and the effects
of various types of corrective lens, as well as pharmacology
and the management of ocular diseases using prescription
he was a founding member of the Optometric Institute
and Clinic of Detroit, which serves the underprivileged.
civic involvement has been extensive. In 1949, he co-founded
the Cotillion Club. The Cotillion Club was successful
in boycotting businesses such as the Automobile Association
of America, which would only write policies for black
car owners if they were sponsored by a white person.
The Club established the first voter registration week
in Detroit. The Club was also interested in the lack
of mixed crews and promotions of black police officers
and met with the police commissioner about these issues.
Dr. Lawson was a founding member of the group of business
and professional blacks that established the First Independence
National Bank of Detroit. In 1977, he was affiliated
with the Downtown Development Authority Broadway-Randolph
Merchants Association. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha