E.W. Lawson and Mary Jane Lawson came to Palatka, Florida in 1913 from Orlando, Florida. Mary Jane Lawson was a registered nurse, and E.W. Lawson had just completed a business college. Mary Jane Lawson was employed as a private nurse for a white family, and E.W. Lawson was in search for a career in business. At the time of their arrival, there were no black establishments for funerals or hospital care in Palatka. W. Carl Davis and Son, who had been handling all funerals for the blacks in this community, suggested to E.W. Lawson opened a funeral home for the black people of this community.

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E.W. Lawson

E.W. Lawson enrolled in the Barnes School of Anatomy, Sanitary Science for Embalming in New York City, New York. He completed the course in September of 1914. Thus began the E.W. Lawson Company. In 1915, Mary Jane Lawson enrolled in the Renouard Training School for Embalming. She completed the course in September of 1915. After Mary Jane Lawson came back to Palatka, the white doctors at the Glendale Hospital, which did not admit blacks as patients, asked Mary Lawson if she would care for some of the patients who needed nursing care. Mary Lawson, being a registered nurse, accepted the idea, thus paving the way for her and E.W. Lawson to expand their business.

In 1916, their son, Theodore R. Lawson, who was in his mid-teens became interested in the business and was made a partner. Business Funeral home-1began to flourish thus paving the way for the E.W. Lawson & Son Funeral Home which was handled by E.W. Lawson and Theodore R. Lawson, and the Mary Lawson Sanatorium which took care of black patients who needed hospital care by Mary Lawson. Most of the white doctors in Palatka had all of their black patients admitted to the Mary Lawson Sanatorium. In 1922, Mary Lawson completely renovated her Sanatorium. The town had grown and the need was necessary. Glendale Hospital became overcrowded so Mary Lawson decided to admit white patients to her Sanatorium. Everything worked out very well. Business began to flourish even more.

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E.W. Lawson the businessman

E.W. Lawson being the businessman that he was saw a need fotr the people of this area to finance the burial of their dead. He came up with the E.W. Lawson and Son Benevolent Society which was a forerunner for the insurance companies of today. His Benevolent Society stated that a person in fair health could invest ten cents per week, and at his death be assured of a funeral of at least $125. This would be equivalent to a funeral of about $600 by today’s standards. This also proved to be successful as it lasted until 1947, when the laws of the State of Florida made it impossible for the Benevolent Society to exist. In 1929, E.W. Lawson started the E.W. Lawson Business College, however he died in 1930 and Mary Lawson discontinued the college. After his death, Mary Lawson changed the name of her Sanatorium to the Mary Lawson Hospital. She along with her son, Theodore R. Lawson, continued to operate both the hospital and funeral home. They purchased a cemetery which is now known as Evergreen Cemetery in Palatka.

In 1935, Theodore R. Lawson married Minnie J. Lawson, who had received her Masters Degree in Education at Columbia in Washington, D.C. She was an instructor at Florida Normal and Industrial College in St. Augustine, Florida. She moved to Palatka and taught in the school system of this county until 1945. She left the school system to attend the Atlanta College of Mortuary Science in Atlanta, Georgia. She completed the course in 1945 and enrolled in the Boston College of Pharmacy which she completed in 1947. This school was located in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1947, the State of Florida prohibited a person from working or operating both a funeral home and hospital. Mary Lawson turned the funeral home over to Theodore and Minnie J. Lawson, her son and daughter-in-law, while she continued to operate the hospital. This was about the same time Putnam Memorial Hospital was opened. Mary Lawson opened a nursing home in the same building as the hospital.

Theodore Lawson

Theodore Lawson died in 1958. Mary Lawson was an old woman at that time, and her daughter-in-law, Minnie J. Lawson was in ill health. Mary Jane Lawson II, who was a senior student at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida, met and married Johnnie Brown, who also was a senior student at Florida A & M University. They both decided they would continue the business and they enrolled in Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago, Illinois. They completed the course in December of 1959 and moved to Palatka to carry on the business. Both Mary Lawson and Minnie J. Lawson died in 1961, thus leaving the continuance of the business to Johnnie and Mary Lawson Brown, who represented the third generation of Lawsons. Mary Lawson Brown has been a funeral director for over 50 years.

She is now passing the business down to the fourth generation. Her sons Theodore (Teddy), a license funeral director for 27 years, and Johnny Maurice Brown. In no way has she left the business. She is still active in the oversight of the funeral home.

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E.W. Lawson & Son Funeral Home

E.W. Lawson & Son Funeral Home has been proudly serving Palatka, Florida for almost 100 years. It is the oldest family-owned business in Palatka. Now with six generations, E.W. Lawson & Son understands that they’re in the funeral business and is there for you during your time of need, offering cremation services, funeral planning, caskets, and more. As a fourth generation of the Lawson Family heads up the business, we still listen with our heart and keep the personal touch.

We take the time to assist you with your every need and desire through the grieving process. Helping you understand at this unsettling time, you will never be rushed.

We are a family, just like you, and we believe in families helping families. Look around our website and feel free to call us at any time. We are always ready to help, and to answer any questions you may have. Our number is (386) 325-4543.

Meet the Lawson Family (3rd to 6th Generation)

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