Brooks Park Champion, Community Advocate Lonnie Lawson Dies

In Brooks Park, Lonnie Lawson will be remembered for his decades of advocacy for the community.

Lonnie Lawson
Lonnie Lawson received a commendation from District Seven Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. Lawson brought a dozen people to share in his recognition.
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Longtime Ingleside neighbor, community activist and president emeritus of the Ingleside Terraces Homes Association Lonnie Lawson, Jr. died on May 16. He was 85 years old.

Born on June 15, 1936, Lawson was originally from Demopolis, Alabama, a town of almost 8,000 people, situated between two rivers atop a cliff. Lawson served in the U.S. Army.

Lawson and Jurline Powell Lawson settled in Ingleside where they raised a family of six children: Shirley Mae Carpenter, Lonnie Lawson III, Cynthia L. Lawson, Emmett L Lawson, Deborah L. Lawson and Susan Lawson. He was also stepfather to Audrey Eugene, David W. Johnson III, Cordell S. Johnson and Elliott B. Johnson.

Lawson worked as a civil engineer, then eventually with Hetch Hetchy Water and Power System, later known as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He served for 20 years on the Park, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee. He also worked for the Market Street Trolley Overhead Reconstruction. He received numerous awards from the City & County of San Francisco.

San Francisco Heritage Vice President and Western Neighborhoods Project founder Woody LaBounty interviewed Lawson for an oral history project.

“One thing very admirable about Lonnie was his complete dedication to the neighborhood, even in adversity,” LaBounty said. “Personally, whenever I met or talked with Lonnie he was as I recall one to choose his words and actions very carefully, speaking factually, avoiding opinions and gossip. Lonnie was often reserved and no nonsense, as he would rather get things done than talk. That probably was from his experience working with government.”

Lawson’s years of dedication are manifested in the community he fostered. Yet it’s important to point out that Lawson’s concern wasn’t just the block he lived on or only Ingleside Terraces. Lawson cared about the entire Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside.

“Lonnie didn’t focus on anything negative,” LaBounty said. “He had little patience for selfish or self-serving enterprises.”

Newspaper clipping
The front page of the summer of 1978 edition of the OMI News.

Legacy In Brooks Park

Brooks Park is his legacy,” LaBounty said.

Lawson and others had worked very hard to get Brooks Park restored and renovated, installing picnic benches and barbecue pits, etc. Just before the official dedication ceremony, a group of teenagers vandalized the park.

“What’s admirable is that when the teenagers were caught and brought to court, Lonnie asked the judge to have the teenagers repair and clean up the park as their penalty/punishment,” LaBounty said.

Since that time in the 1970s, Brooks Park has been cherished. The Friends of Brooks Park formed in 1987 to improve and expand the park, adding a children's playground, sand box and a community garden. Working alongside community activists like Peter Vaernet and many others, Lawson achieved a great deal for the Ingleside.

“We last saw him at our 2021 sundial picnic and we were remembering old times,” neighbor Wendy Dwyer said. “We will forever be thankful for his many many hundreds of hours in representing our Ingleside Terraces neighborhood and his treasured neighborly friendship.”

District Seven Supervisor Myrna Melgar ended the May 24 Board of Supervisors meeting in Lawson’s memory.

Lawson’s memorial service was held on May 25 with the funeral on May 26, according to the announcement.

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