James Lawrence ‘29, “Grandfather”

Again, these are just notes, but – like his father – he too is owed a few lines.


First, some photographs, and a few glimpses of the way he smiled with his eyes.



Grandfather was quiet about his many achievements; I include the following not as an attempt to sum up his life, which would be impossible, but to pass along some things of which people might be unaware:


Stroke of America’s four-oared crew in the ’28 Olympics (IX Olympiad).

Served with the 8th Air Force during World War II, in Intelligence. Discharged as a major in 1945. Awarded the Bronze Star for actions that he never discussed, as well as the Presidential Merit Citation.


Fellow, American Institute of Architects; national representative of the American Institute of Architects to the International Union of Architects; president Massachussetts and Boston Society of Architects; Benjamin Franklin Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences; fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

—Frances Weeks Lawrence


Leader of the movement to save the elms on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

Recipient of NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Thurgood Marshall Award.

One of the few in Boston who stood up in opposition to McCarthy during the communist witch hunt.


His obituary in the NY Times:

JLs obit in the NYTimes

Of the readings he requested for his memorial service, on that sad and snowy day, I saved the following:

When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable. In this playhouse of infinite forms, I have had my play here and have caught sight of that one who is formless– If the end comes here let it come– let this be my parting word. Let it be not death but completeness. Let love melt into memory, and pain into song…

—Rabindranath Tagore, A Year of Grace, edited by Victor Gollancz



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