Beverly Cotton Lawston, a noted community activist in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood and vice chair of the Mecklenburg Park and Recreation Commission, died suddenly on Thursday. She was 61 years old.
An official at Carolinas Medical Center confirmed Lawston’s death. No cause was immediately offered.
In the 2010 Democratic primary, Lawston challenge incumbent commissioner Vilma Leake in District 2. She lost 33 percent to 67 percent.
She was best known, perhaps, for her work in the Lincoln Heights community, where she stressed the need to educate and nurture children. She was also founder and CEO of the group Grandparents of America Inc., a nonprofit that seeks to assist grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
In a May 15 article in the Lake Norman News, Lawston said grandparents need support to help their grandchildren with schoolwork and social problems such as pressure to join a gang. She expressed hoped that Grandparents of America would become that organization.
As news of her death spread Friday, friends and well-wishers began posting condolences on her Facebook page.
Lloyd Scher, one of 14 candidates running for three at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, posted a note saying he had eaten lunch with Lawston just hours before her death.
“Her last act in life was to help me obtain the endorsement of her neighborhood organization,” he wrote. “I cannot tell you how much it hurts for her to be gone. She had nothing but goodness in her heart…”
Scher said he had promised to help Lawston build a website for Grandparents of America.
“…I will keep my promise to her,” he wrote.
School board candidate Darrin Rankin, also seeking an at-large seat, said he worked with Lawston’s 2010 campaign and had met with her Tuesday to discuss his own race for public office.
“I was pretty shocked to get the news,” he said of her death. “Something came on suddenly.”
Rankin described Lawston as a “straight shooter, kind of no-nonsense person.”
“You always knew where she stood,” he said.
Joel Ford, former chair of Mecklenburg County Democratic Party and current chair of the Charlotte Housing Authority, said he knew Lawston in her role as organizer of Precinct 55, which includes Lincoln Heights.
“She was a grass-roots community activist who was concerned about here community,” he said. “She had a passion for her community.”
Lawston was a gaduate of Johnson C. Smith University and was a member of the board of directors for Friendship Missionary Baptist Church CDC.
Charlotte Fire Capt. Rob Brisley, who chairs the Park and Recreation Commission, said Lawston was the first to make him feel welcome when he joined the commission three years ago. He described her as “an extremely good listener” who cared deeply about her community.
“It’s never easy when you spend time with people in the community and one week you’re excited about a meeting or a project you’re working on with them and then tragically the next week they are not there,” he said. “There is going to be as huge void in this community beyond her family.”
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