W W Law
"Capturing the Soul: Portrait Photography from the W. W. Law Collection"
At the Beach Institute, May 2018 - January 2019
W. W. Law Music Collection Album Artwork Gallery
The W. W. Law Music Collection includes shellac and vinyl albums with album artwork that is in many cases not only beautiful but inspiring examples of art and graphic design. This online exhibit provides a sampling of the album artwork, based on the musical genres represented in the W. W. Law Music Collection. For those interested in viewing more of the collection, please visit the W. W. Law Collection page. All album artwork is available for public research use through the City Library & Archives.
In September 1961, after many years of service with the United States Postal Service, W. W. Law was fired from his position as postal carrier. His work with the NAACP and the extremely effective boycott of Savannah businesses made him a target for retaliation. With the assistance of Clarence Mitchell, NAACP lobbyist to Congress, and the National Alliance of Postal Employees, a campaign was launched to reinstate Law to his postal position. Six months later, with pressure from President John F. Kennedy, a three person appeals committee reinstated W. W. Law, restoring his seniority and providing him with back pay. In October 1966, just five years later, the new Savannah Postmaster, John G. Butler, was inspired by W. W. Law’s work through the NAACP to congratulate him on a successful re-election as Savannah branch president. W. W. Law served as NAACP Savannah Branch president for more than twenty-five years and as a postal carrier in his community for more than forty years, continuing every day to inspire others.
Left: Correspondence between John G. Butler, Postmaster, United States Post Office, Savannah, Georgia, and W. W. Law, Main Office Carrier Unit, Savannah Georgia, October 25, 1966
At lunch counters across the South in the spring of 1960, students began sit-ins to protest segregation. On March 16, 1960, three inspiring Savannah students sat down at the lunch counter in the Azalea Room of Levy’s Department Store and asked to be served. After being denied service and told to leave, the students were arrested. From this event, W. W. Law and other NAACP leaders conducted a boycott of Savannah’s businesses to desegregate facilities. By October 1963, City and business leaders agreed to integrate Savannah’s facilities.
This report provided by Dr. J. W. Jamerson, Jr. regarding his visit to Levy’s Azalea Room on July 27, 1961 is three months prior to the agreement reached by Savannah business leaders to end lunch counter segregation. His letter describes the developing changes in service for the African American community. Dr. Jamerson practiced dentistry in Savannah and was a prominent community leader. He was an active member of the NAACP, serving as vice president of the Savannah Branch for twenty-five years and participating in law suits brought by the NAACP to desegregate Savannah.
Left: Report of Visit to Levy's, J. W. Jamerson, Jr., D.D.S., July 27, 1961
Originally, African American nurses were denied membership in the local district division of the Georgia Nurses’ Association, an organization affiliated with the American Nurses’ Association (ANA). In 1950, the ANA made provisions to provide direct membership to nurses that were restricted at the state level. The ANA also created a program to work toward integration of all areas of nursing. In January 1962, the Savannah Registered Nurses’ Association merged with Georgia’s First District Registered Nurses’ Association. By the end of 1962 membership was offered to the American Nurses’ Association at the state level to all qualified nurses regardless of race, color, or religion.
On June 28, 1962, inspired by the untiring efforts of the Savannah Branch of the NAACP, the Savannah Registered Nurses’ Association wrote W. W. Law making a donation towards continuing the fight for equality. In return, W. W. Law’s letter of thanks acknowledges the nurses’ accomplishments in integrating their profession.
Left: Correspondence between Elizabeth Horne, R.N., President, and Susanna J. Primus, R.N., Secretary, Savannah Registered Nurses' Association, and W. W. Law, President, Savannah Branch NAACP, June 28, 1962 and August 4, 1962
Record Series 1121-102.1, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records - Correspondence, Box 1121-102-4, Folder 5, Items 1 and 2
As president of the Savannah Branch of the NAACP, W. W. Law worked to bring inspiring speakers to Savannah’s mass meetings. Medgar Evers (1925-1963), civil rights activist and NAACP field officer in Mississippi, was one such speaker. The “pressing problem in the city” that Evers refers to in this telegram is the arrival of the Freedom Riders to Jackson, Mississippi. On May 24, 1961, Freedom Riders began arriving in Jackson, Mississippi to integrate bus station facilities. An estimated 300 Freedom Riders would be arrested in Jackson during the summer of 1961.
As Mississippi’s NAACP field officer, Evers organized demonstrations, boycotts, and voter registration campaigns across the state, as well as investigated cases of discrimination and racial crimes. Because of his civil right activities, on June 12, 1963, Evers was fatally shot in his driveway. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. One year later the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, outlawing public segregation practices and employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It took thirty years and three trials to convict his murderer.
Left: Telegram from Medgar Evers to W. W. Law, May 26, 1961
Record Series 1121-102.1, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records - Correspondence, Box Folder 1121-102-19, Folder 2
In March 1977, W. W. Law’s years of service with the NAACP were recognized with a Testimonial Banquet, during which he was honored through letters from local, regional and national civic leaders describing his dedication and many contributions. One of those letters was from Ruby Hurley (1909-1980), an important leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Hurley worked in the 1940s as NAACP National Youth Council Secretary, and from 1951 to 1978 as NAACP Southeast Regional Secretary. As NAACP National Youth Secretary, Mrs. Hurley directed and helped organize youth council chapters across the United States; increasing the number of chapters from 86 to 250. During her tenure as Southeast Regional Secretary, she worked with other activists to investigate racial crimes and combat Jim Crow legislation. Hurley and Law first became acquainted when he served as president of the Savannah youth council in the 1940s.
Left: Ruby Hurley to NAACP Savannah Branch, March 14, 1977
W. W. Law Preservation Week, September 19-23, 2016
On September 15, 2016, Savannah City Council issued a proclamation declaring September 19-23, 2016 "W. W. Law Preservation Week" in Savannah in recognition of the historic preservation contributions of Westley Wallace Law to the Savannah community. Don't worry if you missed it, you can learn more about W. W. Law's preservation work right here!
“Law and Preservation,” Online Exhibit
Discover W. W. Law’s preservation work through his own collections, preserved in the City’s Municipal Archives, including photographs, correspondence and awards highlighting years of hard-work, dedication and local, state, and national recognition. [If you are having trouble viewing the exhibit, try switching the browser you are using, for example Internet Explore versus Google Chrome]
“W. W. Law’s Influence on Today’s Preservation Landscape in Savannah: A Panel Discussion”
Richard “Dicky” Mopper is co-owner of Engel & Vöelkers Savannah and advocate of the Savannah National Historic Landmark District. Mopper was a founder of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the Downtown Business Association, and currently serves as chair of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. He has served on the Savannah Historic District Board of Review and the Board of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
W. John Mitchell, past chair of Historic Savannah Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Savannah Historic District Board of Review. Retired since 2011 from the nonprofit New Legacy Community Development Corporation, Mitchell developed more than thirty-five affordable new homes for low-to-moderate income Savannah residents.
Melissa Jest is the African American Program Coordinator for the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, also serving as liaison to the Georgia African American Preservation Network. Jest works with individuals and communities to identify and preserve African American sites and properties significant to Georgia’s heritage. Melissa Jest has over 15 years of outreach and preservation experience, including working with Historic Savannah Foundation’s Revolving Fund.
Hosted by Historic Savannah Foundation and the City of Savannah
Explore Laurel Grove South Cemetery
Celebrate W. W. Law's advocacy and preservation work by exploring Laurel Grove South Cemetery:
Laurel Grove South Cemetery
Address: 2101 Kollock Street, Savannah, GA 31415
Hours: open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
For more information