Pictured above: Lawson State's newest building...Academic Success Center, 2019
Lawson State Community College--A Celebrated History
Lawson State Community College, located in the southwestern section of Birmingham, is composed of two main divisions--an academic division and a career/technical division.
The career/technical division was first established as a result of the Wallace-Patterson Trade School Act of 1947. This Act established Wenonah Vocational and Trade School on August 24, 1949. The school opened with eleven instructors and seventy-five students enrolled in ten courses and one related subject. The first president of the school was Dr. Theodore A. Lawson. The initial funding received by the technical division was $75,000.
The academic division began as Wenonah State Junior College, which was founded under Act No. 93 of the May 3, 1963 Legislature. The College was created in 1965 and was named after its first president in 1969. In 1967, Wenonah State Junior College held its first commencement exercise with 33 graduates. In 1968, another milestone was accomplished when the college received its accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1969, there were 300 students enrolled at Lawson State Junior College. On October 1, 1973, Wenonah State Technical Institute and Wenonah State Junior College merged and became one institution known as Lawson State Community College.
With its long-standing history, there has been a short list of presidents, Dr. Theodore A. Lawson, 1949-1971; Dr. Leon Kennedy, 1971-1978; Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, 1978-1987; Dr. Perry W. Ward, 1987 – 2020; and effective March 15, 2021, Dr. Cynthia T. Anthony became the newly appointed president of Lawson State Community College. She is now the fifth president and the first female to lead the College. Dr. Anthony served as Interim President at Lawson State from September 1, 2020, until the time of her permanent appointment.
Bessemer State Technical College was created under legislative Act No. 93 of the 1963 Alabama legislature. The City of Bessemer purchased 34 acres for the college site. Bessemer State accepted its first students on April 4, 1966, with six programs of study, 47 daytime students and 30 night students. The college was initially known as the State Vocational-Technical School but the first official name was the John R. Pelham Technical Trade School. The name was changed later to Bessemer State Trade School. On August 16, 1966, the name was again changed by legislative act to Bessemer State Technical Institute; the college status and name were achieved in 1973. Five presidents served Bessemer State Technical College: Otto B. Smith, 1964-1967; S. C. Porch, 1967-1971; Euel Snider, 1971-1972; Charles L. Payne, 1972-1984; and Mike Bailey, 1984-2004.
As of July 1, 2005, Bessemer State Technical College merged with Lawson State Community College. Under the merged college, Lawson State has seen its most celebrated years. In 2011, Lawson State was featured as a Top 50 Community College, making history in the state. And, in 2013, it moved from 33 out of 50 on the list (of top colleges) to #5. Lawson State has also been recognized by the White House (and celebrated by the Obama Administration) as a Champion of Change in 2011. In 2015, Lawson State received the epitome of recognition when it was selected to host a visit by President Barack Obama. The event (which took place in March of 2015) was captured below. In 2019, Lawson State opened its newest building--the Academic Success Center which is now the largest building on campus and houses the college's new cafeteria, bookstore and key administrative offices to include Financial Aid, Student Records, Admissions, Business (satellite) Offices and more. During that same year, Lawson State achieved another key success; it achieved reaffirmation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools without any recommendations. Over the last decade, Lawson State's Nursing Programs have been ranked as high as #1 and #2 in the state. During the 2022-2023 school year, Lawson State is currently undergoing many renovation projects on both campuses. All renovations are designed to enhance the learning environments for all students.