There were many people who lived in communities like River Road who helped make them resilient and vibrant places despite Jim Crow segregation. In nearby Lyttonsville, Lawrence Tyson (1913-2000) was an important community builder. He was born in Wheaton and attended school in Washington. Like many Montgomery County residents, he worked for the federal government (Government Printing Office). Tyson was active in his church and he was a Mason.
In the years after World War II, Tyson became increasingly active as an advocate for Lyttonsville and other African American communities in Montgomery County. He fought for better schools and equitable infrastructure: providing the county’s African American communities with paved roads, running water, and sewerage. Tyson was one of several civic leaders who formed the Citizens Council for Mutual Improvement. Their appeal in January 1948 to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners marked the start of modern civil rights activism in Montgomery County. They appealed for equality and demanded an end to the “total disregard for the needs and desires” of Montgomery County’s African Americans.
Tyson was a founder and president of the Lyttonsville Civic Association. When Montgomery County began its Community Renewal Program in 1965, Lyttonsville became one of the first projects. Though it was called “urban renewal,” many of the community’s that were redeveloped in the 1960s and 1970s were rural hamlets. Tyson was a powerful spokesperson and community representative during the redevelopment process.
Lawrence Tyson married Alice Johnson (1914-2004) in 1940 in Virginia. Their daughter, Patricia, still lives in Lyttonsville. Another daughter, Theresa, also lives in Montgomery County.
Sources: Patricia Tyson; Montgomery County Archives; The Washington Post. #BlackHistoryDay2018
This is the first of several Black History Month posts about important figures in Montgomery County. They originally appear in the Save Bethesda African Cemetery Facebook page.