CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Mary Lawson Booker, a Charleston native, will present “African American Life: A Personal Perspective” in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston on Thursday, May 25. The program, which is the first of the 2017 The Block Speakers Series, will begin at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Mary Lawson Booker was born the first of seven children to the late Joseph E. and Ludelia Johnson Lawson. She attended Boyd Elementary and Junior High schools and graduated from Garnet High School in 1949, where she was a majorette and member of the glee and drama clubs. She also received several certificates from West Virginia University.

Booker worked at Arlan’s Department Store from 1964 to 1974, where she became the first black female office manager in Charleston. She later worked at Union Carbide for 18 years before retiring in 1993.

Booker has held many offices and positions through the years. They include trustee and secretary of Mount Olive Presidents Council; secretary of Guiding Star Chapter 09, Order of the Eastern Star; Matron Golden Eagle Court, #38, Heroines of Jericho; and president of Ray of Hope Grand Council of Heroines of Jericho, state of West Virginia. She was inducted into the Garnet Hall of Fame in 1999 and is a member of the Henry Highland Garnet Foundation, serving on the foundation, scholarship and housekeeping committees. In 2015, she was honored by the West Virginia Human Rights Commission on the 12th annual Civil Rights Day.

Mary Booker has been a member of the First Baptist Church of Vandalia for more than 50 years and has served as a Sunday School teacher. She was married to the late Charles L. Booker Sr. and has six children, 17 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

“The Block” was once considered the heart of Charleston’s black community. It comprised a 25-acre area bounded by Washington Street East, Capitol Street, Smith Street and Sentz Court.

For additional information about the Archives and History lecture series, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

Patrons may park behind the Culture Center after 5:30 p.m. on May 25 and enter the building at the back loading dock area. The new bus turnaround is open, and handicapped spots are available there. Visitors parking there should enter at the front of the building.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the Office of Secretary of Education and the Arts with Gayle Manchin, cabinet secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.