Lawson State Community College — Our History


NOTE: Click the Top 50 logo (above) to see Lawson State's college ranking.

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; and Dr. Perry W. Ward, 1987 through the present time.

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.



White House, 2011 (YouTube Channel)
President Perry W. Ward, Participant
Lawson State Community College:  Recognized as a Champion of Change