Lawson State Community College
Lawson State Community College is a public two-year college located at 3060 Wilson Road Southwest in Southwest Birmingham. It also operates a second campus, the former Bessemer State Technical College, at 1100 9th Avenue Southwest in Bessemer.
Lawson State Community College has a current enrollment of 3,028. In 2013 Lawson State was ranked as the #5 community college in the nation by Washington Monthly. It was also recognized as a "Champion of Change" in 2011 by the Obama administration.
The college, originally open only to African Americans, was founded as the Wenonah Vocational and Trade School on August 24, 1949, as part of the Jefferson County Schools system, under the authority of the Wallace-Patterson Trade School Act of 1947. Seventy-five students enrolled in the first year, taught by eleven instructors led by president Theodore Lawson.
An academic program, called Wenonah State Junior College, was founded in 1965 under the auspices of legislation passed in 1963. Lawson remained president. That year Charles H. McCauley Associates was commissioned to design a new 88,062 square-foot building for 1,200 students on a 25-acre site. The $1,216,896 contract was awarded to Robins Engineering. McCauley's design won a Merit Award from the Alabama Council of Architects.
It graduated its first class of 33 in 1967 and was fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1968. In 1969 the academic program was renamed Lawson State Junior College in Lawson's honor. It merged with the technical school on October 1, 1973 to form the present institution. The school's technology center was supported in part by a $1 million donation from the Scrushy Family Foundation.
On July 1, 2005 Lawson State merged with Bessemer State Technical College. In May 2012 the college purchased the site of the former Wenonah Elementary School for expansion. Since at least 2012 auditors from the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts have found serious issues with the school's financial practices and record keeping, most strikingly in how it handled federal funds for financial aid for students. Investigators found that the college also circumvented regarding the sale of surplus property by offering vehicles to current and former employees at nominal cost. The findings were not disputed by the college, but continued to occur over several years despite pledges to implement stricter procedures and oversight.
President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the economy during a brief visit to Lawson State on March 26, 2015.
In 2022 Lawson State partnered with the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District, the Bessemer Housing Authority, and Cornerstone Schools of Alabama to provide pre-apprentice workforce training in construction, healthcare and warehouse operations. The training was enabled by $4.2 million in grant funding through the U.S. Department of Labor's "YouthBuild" program.
- Theodore Lawson, 1949–1971
- Leon Kennedy, 1971–1978
- Jesse Lewis, 1978–1987
- Perry Ward, June 12, 1987–August 31, 2020
- Cynthia Anthony (interim), August 31, 2020–March 31, 2021
- Cynthia Anthony, April 1, 2021–
- Wallace Anger, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
- Kevin Arrington, director of Boutwell Auditorium
- Tyrone Belcher, postal supervisor, army sergeant and member of the Birmingham Board of Education
- Patricia Bozeman-Henderson, case manager for Birmingham Municipal Court and president of the Five Points West neighborhood
- Earl Cochran, Sr, Bessemer City Council member
- Johnny High, professional basketball player
- Lamar Johnson, Major League Baseball player
- Gary Lavender, police officer
- Bert Miller, Birmingham City Council member
The Lawson State Cougars compete in baseball, men's and women's basketball, and women's volleyball as members of the Alabama Community College Conference in Division I of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
- Jones, Pam (January 7, 2005) "Lawson State, Bessemer Tech colleges merge; Six-figure savings are anticipated." Birmingham Business Journal
- Bryant, Joseph D. (March 26, 2015) "Obama visit brings noteworthy alumni back to Lawson State." The Birmingham News
- Hedgepeth, Lee (September 15, 2022) "While students waited on refunds, this Alabama college sold cars to employees on the cheap." CBS42.com
- O'Leary, A. J. (September 27, 2022) "$4.2 million coming to local workforce development programs." Birmingham Business Journal
- Lawson State Community College website