Georgia Historical Society Receives Enduring Gift in Memory of Civil Rights Icon W.W. Law

NAACP boycott protest of Woolworths, Savannah, July 1960. W.W. Law is pictured on the right. GHS 2697 John Williams Collection of W.W. (Westley Wallace) Law Papers. Georgia Historical Society.

Savannah, Ga., December 28, 2022—The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) recently received a $25,000 gift to establish a named endowment fund in memory of W.W. Law, a crusader for justice and civil rights during the second half of the 20th Century. The gift was made by Larry D. Thompson, former United States Deputy Attorney General, and his wife Brenda, and helps to mark the centennial of Mr. Law’s birth.

“We are tremendously grateful for this generous gift by Larry and Brenda Thompson,” said Dr. W. Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “The W.W. Law Fund is unique because most people name funds after themselves or a family member, but the Thompsons wanted to highlight and honor someone they admired. This endowment fund will ensure that the story of W. W. Law, his bravery, leadership, and commitment to justice and American democracy, will be preserved forever.”

Westley Wallace Law was born in Savannah, and January 1, 2023, marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. As the president of the Savannah Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1950 to 1976, Law led a courageous and unremitting campaign to desegregate the city. Law served in World War II before graduating from what is now Savannah State University. Inspired by Pastor Ralph Mark Gilbert, Law led the legal battle to desegregate public schools, held weekly mass meetings at Savannah churches, wade-ins at segregated Tybee Beach, and sit-ins at lunch counters and restaurants. The protests culminated in an 18-month boycott of Broughton Street merchants that forced White leaders to desegregate on October 1, 1963, eight months ahead of federal civil rights legislation requiring such action. This success prompted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to declare that Savannah was “the most desegregated city south of the Mason-Dixon Line.”

After Law retired as the Savannah NAACP president in 1976, he worked to preserve Savannah's African-American heritage by founding the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum and the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation, among others.  Law died in Savannah on July 28, 2002, at age 79, and he is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery South in Savannah.

The Georgia Historical Society is also home to the John Williams collection of W.W. Law papers. The collection contains genealogical material, clippings, photographs, and other materials belonging to W.W. Law. The majority of the collection items relate to his time as President of the Savannah Chapter of the NAACP. Other materials relate to his military service and his work with the Boy Scouts of America. The collection is searchable here.

Nearly half a century ago, the Georgia Historical Society created an Endowment Fund to ensure the future of GHS, one of the oldest historical societies in the nation. Governed by an independent Board of Trustees, the GHS Endowment's purpose is twofold: to provide perpetual care for, and access to, the oldest archival collection of Georgia history in the nation and to ensure the delivery of rich and varied educational and public programs for teachers, students, and general audiences.

The Georgia Historical Society Endowment Fund offers donors a unique opportunity to provide perpetual support in fulfillment of GHS’s educational and research mission to collect, examine, and teach Georgia history. For more information about the GHS Endowment Fund, please contact Leanda Rix at


Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history. GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation.
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