You could say W.W. Law (1923-2002) did many things, but if we had to sum it up into one line we would say that he set a standard for dignified treatment. He set the standard of how Laurel Grove South Cemetery, which had fallen into disrepair, should be treated by making the moves to restore it. He also set a huge standard of how the Black residents of Savannah should be treated by leading the local NAACP with great momentum.
According to PBS:
W. W. Law was born in Savannah, GA, on Emancipation Day, January 1, 1923. As a child during the Great Depression, Law watched “people of means” receive rations before his mother, a widow with three children to feed. This, he said, inspired him to work throughout his life toward equality and justice.
Law attended public school in Savannah and was drafted into the army just after high school, where he served for three years during WW II. On his return, he attended Georgia State College and earned a degree in biology in 1948. He planned to go to medical school, but instead joined the U.S. Postal Service, where he worked as a letter carrier for 42 years.
In 1942, Law, then a senior in high school, began his civil rights work by joining the Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He served on the Savannah Mayor’s Negro Advisory Committee from 1946 until 1947, when he resigned in protest over the segregation of blacks during the viewing of the Freedom Train, a traveling exhibit of National Archives documents relating to the American heritage of freedom. He was president of the Georgia NAACP from 1953 to 1966, and president of the Savannah Branch of the NAACP for 26 years.
As a leader in the NAACP, Law was at the center of Savannah’s civil rights struggles, leading mass meetings, sit-ins, and boycotts. In 1961, he was fired from his postal job over his role in the Savannah lunch counter sit-ins. He was later reinstated during the Kennedy administration. Law not only led the fight for desegregation of school and public facilities, but also voter registration, integrated housing, and equal employment.
Law was also dedicated to the preservation of black history and culture in Savannah. During the 1970s, he worked to save the old Laurel Grove South Cemetery, a historically African American Cemetery. In 1976 he formed the Savannah-Yamacraw Branch Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1976, and in 1977 he began the Savannah Negro Heritage Trail tour. He helped establish such Savannah landmarks as the King Tisdell Cottage and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. In order to preserve Savannah’s only remaining downtown black neighborhood and prevent black displacement from the inner city, Law organized the Beach Institute Historic Neighborhood in 1978.
Law died at age 79 on July 29, 2002 at his home in Savannah of natural causes. He never married and had no children.