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Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Collection

Identifier: RG 0010

Scope and Contents Note

The Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Collection houses the papers of the church from 1968 to 2010. This collection is consisting of vital news clippings, various event programs, annual reports, various biographical profiles of African American artists and artifacts. documents of church members and Houston citizens. Strength of this collection is the funeral programs of church members and Houston citizens. While this collection lacks institution records, it provides valuable biographical information relevant for family and genealogy research.


  • 1968 - 2010
  • Majority of material found within 1997 - 2010

Language of Materials

This collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Collection must be obtained from the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder. Please ask reference staff for information and assistance on the possibility of photo duplication and any associated fees. The library reserves the right to restrict duplication.

Biographical/Historical Notes

In March of 1962, 13 pioneering worshipers assembled in the lounge of Texas Southern University’s Baptist Student Union for the sole purpose of establishing an ecclesiastical form of expression through which the worship of God and service to mankind could co-exist. Founder Rev. Dr. William A. Lawson and the original members served to improve social justice and demand change. The institution quickly became one of Houston’s leading African American churches actively in its community giving back to the needy. William Lawson was born in St. Louis, Mo., and reared by Walter and Clarisse Lawson Cade in Kansas City, Kansas, where he graduated from Sumner High School in 1946. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Tennessee A. & I. State University in Nashville in 1950. He returned to Kansas City to attend Central Baptist Theological Seminary, which conferred upon Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees. He has received honorary doctorates from Howard Payne College in Brownwood, the University of Houston, and Texas Southern University in Houston.

He came to Houston after graduation from seminary to serve as director of the Baptist Student Union and Professor of Bible at the new (eight years old) Texas Southern University. He served in that position for ten years, also becoming director of Upward Bound, a pre-college program for high school students on the TSU campus. During his years at TSU, several residents of the neighborhood persuaded the Lawson’s to establish a church near the university. Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church was established in their home in June 1962. The congregation has grown to over 12,000 members, with many outreach programs, and is much respected in the community. Since the church was born and lived its infant years during the Civil Rights Movement, Lawson has been deeply involved in advocacy activities for African Americans, for Hispanics, for women, and for the poor.

In 1996, his 50th anniversary of being a minister, the Houston community honored him with the creation of a non-profit advocacy agency called WALIPP. The agency has gone before public officials and bodies on behalf of the underclass, and now has established two single-gender charter schools for boys and girls. WALIPP has also constructed 50 units of apartments for seniors in Houston’s Third Ward.

While in seminary, he married Audrey Hoffman Lawson of St. Louis. The Lawsons have four children, two grandchildren, and celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in January of 2015. He authored a book of meditations called “Lawson’s Leaves of Love”. Lawson always worked in close partnership with wife Audrey, who worked with the Baptist Student Union at TSU, with the church, and with the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity (WALIPP). Lawson gave back to his community, received many awards and is known for his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lawson. Reverend Lawson led the church for 42 years, before he retired on June 6, 2004.

As the successor to the Founding Pastor of Wheeler Avenue, Dr. William A. Lawson, Pastor Marcus Cosby has continued the ministry of this intentionally intergenerational congregation since 2004, having served as Associate Pastor since 1998. Reverend Cosby, the third child born to the late Mr. Rogers Cosby and Mrs. Bobbie J. Cosby, is the Senior Pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. A native of Chicago, Illinois and a product of Emmanuel Baptist Church where Dr. L.K. Curry served as pastor, Cosby received the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion and English from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, the Master of Divinity Degree in Homiletics and Christian Education from the Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia and the Doctor of Ministry Degree in Homiletics from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.

Taken from Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church website


3 Linear Feet (4)

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged into six series by material type and subject.

Series I Newspaper Clippings

Series II Publications

Series III Biographical Profiles

Series IV Event Programs and Reports

Series V Funeral Programs

Series VI Artifacts

Acquisition Information

Donated by: Diana Jordan, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, Houston, Texas.

Related Materials

RG 0038 Gregory School Funeral Program Collection

Processing Information

Processed by: Brittany Cryer, February 2011; Updated by Sheena Wilson June 2018
RG 0010 Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Collection
An Inventory of Records at the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
Brittany Cryer
February 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Gregory School Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002