James Lawson, a retired United Methodist pastor and civil rights leader whose expulsion from Vanderbilt University caused a national furor 46 years ago, will return to the university as a distinguished professor. The Nashville university announced the one-year appointment in mid-January. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, where he served for 25 years before retiring in 1999, said: “This is for me an unexpected, even momentous personal instant in my journey.” Lawson helped organize sit-ins by black students that led to the desegregation of lunch counters in downtown Nashville. He also was active in civil rights struggles in Alabama and Mississippi.


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