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The Gainsboro History Project

Reuben Lawson was born in Danville, Virginia, and earned his law degree at Howard University. He moved to Roanoke and established a law practice in the mid-1940s. In 1952, he built the two-story, brick Lawson Building that still stands today at 401 Gainsboro Road, NW. He was very active in the Roanoke NAACP, including serving as its president in the early 1950s.

Attorney Reuben Lawson was a decisive legal figure in Virginia’s civil rights landscape. He argued the case Ingram v. Virginia in 1946, which addressed the exclusion of blacks as jurors in Virginia cases. He served as an attorney for the NAACP, arguing several school desegregation cases in Southwest Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1960, Lawson challenged the Roanoke City School Board on behalf of the NAACP. He represented 28 African American public school pupils and their representatives in the City of Roanoke challenging their denial of transfers from Black to White schools (Green v. School Board of the City of Roanoke). This case had a significant impact on the desegregation of schools in Roanoke. Unfortunately, it took the city over ten years to comply and fully address the court’s orders for integration.

Photo of Reuben Lawson, likely in his office, looking over papers with books behind him
Reuben Lawson. Courtesy of Evie Slone.

See Also


CaseLaw Access Project, Harvard Law School. (2019, August 29). Green v. School Board of the Roanoke, 304 F.2d 118 (1962).

Justia U.S. Supreme Court. (n.d.) Green v. School Board of City of Roanoke, 316 F. Supp. 6 (W.D. Va. 1970). Retrieved February 9, 2022 from

Justia US Law. (n.d.) Green v. School Board of City of Roanoke, 330 F. Supp. 674 (W.D. Va. 1971). Retrieved February 9, 2022 from

Looking back. (2013, March 23). The Roanoke Times.