Walter Vernon Lawson is recognized as the first African American police officer of the Seattle Police Department to be promoted to Sergeant in July 1964. He would go on to also become Seattle’s first African American police Lieutenant (1967) and two years later the first African American police captain.
Lawson attended Southern University and served two-and-one-half years with the U.S. Navy. In 1950, after studying engineering at Seattle University for a year, and working for a few months at the Boeing Company, he joined the Seattle Police Department.
While serving with the Seattle Police Department, Lawson also served as Director of Personnel, Commander of the City Jail, and Commander of Traffic Special Enforcement. He also organized the Community Service Officer program. After 21 years of service, he retired from the Seattle Police Department in 1971 to accept a position with the Justice Department’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) at the regional office in Seattle.