The Savannah Tribune Salutes Black History Month

Westley Wallace Law
Westley Wallace Law

W. W. Law was a crusader for justice and the civil rights of African Americans. He served as president of the Savannah chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1950 to 1976 and came to be widely known as "Mr. Civil Rights."

Born on January 1, 1923, W. W. Law in Savannah, Westley Wallace Law was the only son and the oldest of the three children of Geneva Wallace and Westley Law. He came from a poor family and began working at the age of ten to help his mother after his father died. Later on he credited his success in life to his mother and to Lillie Belle Wallace, his grandmother, who instilled in him a love for reading and social justice. He was also inspired by his mentor, Ralph Mark Gilbert, pastor of the First African Baptist Church, who revived the local branch of the Savannah NAACP; and he admired John S. Delaware, his boyhood scoutmaster, who was a Savannah NAACP official.Law believed that nonviolent means were the best way to open the city for blacks. After retiring from the NAACP turned his attention to the preservation of African American history and historic buildings. He established the Savannah- Yamacraw Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH).

Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum as president of ASALH, he established the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, Negro Heritage Trail Tour, King-Tisdell Cottage Museum, and the Beach Institute of African American Culture.Law received honorary doctorates from Savannah College of Art and Design (1997) and Savannah State University (2000), the Distinguished Georgian Award (1998) from the Center for the Study of Georgia History at Augusta State University, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Preservation Award (2001), and the Governor’s Award in the Humanities (1992). Law died on July 28, 2002, at his Savannah home.

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