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W W Law


There was music everywhere. My mother would take me down West Broad Street on Saturday, when she would go to the store. There would be country singers who had come into the city, and they would be on the corner, there, with banjos and guitars. Most of them would be singing religious songs. Some of them would be blues singers. And they would have a cup, and we would listen... - W. W. Law 

View of the "Law & Music" exhibit

Now I really began with songs, now, my grandmother did the folk tales, and my mother read stories at night. And the few times, when she had a time to relax, she was in the choir at our church, and she would get her Baptist hymnal and we would lay on the bed with her. And that's when we began to learn to sing together in the home. - W. W. Law

Quotes from the Ja A. Jahannes papers housed at the Georgia Historical Society

Law & Music: Discovering Music through the W. W. Law Collection
When: March 2017 through January 2018
Where: Beach Institute African American Cultural Center, 502 East Harris Street
Admission Fee: $7.00 (student group discount rates available)
Telephone: (912) 335-8868

Westley Wallace "W. W." Law (1923-2002) was a prominent Civil Rights leader, local historian, and historic preservationist in Savannah, Georgia.  He was also a lover of music, with a large collection spanning a wide variety of musical genres and technological formats.  Law was always eager to share his collection and musical knowledge with those he encountered.  Through this exhibit, the City continues Law's legacy of education and encourages others to discover music, as well as the math and science concepts behind it.  Highlights of the exhibit include content from W. W. Law's music, book, periodical, and photograph collections.  The exhibit includes interactive activties and touches on select Georgia educational standards for K-12 students.

Exhibit postcard
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. 

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            Visit Online Gallery

Discover Music through the W. W. Law Collection

W. W. Law's collection includes a wide range of materials documenting his vast interest in music, including: a variety of audio formats (shellac, vinyl, audio cassettes) encompassing numerous musical genres from the 1910s-2000s; a vast selection of books covering a wide range of topics including biographies of musicians, histories of music genres, compilations of sheet music, and hymn books from the 1870s-2000s; and an extensive periodical collection including music-related magazines from the 1930s-2000s.  These collections are available to the public for research through the City Library & Archives.

To start your discovery of these collections visit the 
W. W. Law Collection page.

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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
Record Series 1121-102.1, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records - Correspondence, Box 1121-102-16, Folder 4

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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
Record Series 1121-102.1, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records - Correspondence, Box 1121-102-4, Folder 3

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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
MedgarEvers_1961_web.jpgView fullsize 

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

RubyHurley_1977_web.jpgView fullsize

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
Record Series 1121-102.1, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records - Correspondence, Oversize Folder 1121-102-18

In addition to the NAACP Savannah Branch records, the W. W. Law Collection includes photographs, art, books, music
and more.  Start exploring this important collection today!

Law and Preservation

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] 
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“W. W. Law’s Influence on Today’s Preservation Landscape in Savannah: A Panel Discussion”

Recording now available online
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.
Admission: none
For more information: