Lawson, John James ('Jack'), MP, Baron Lawson

Mineworker and Labour MP, born at Whitehaven on 16 October 1881. When he was 9 the family moved to Boldon Colliery, Co. Durham, where he began work as a miner. In youth gambling and self-education vied for his favour, but following his conversion c.1901 he was an active WM local preacher for 60 years. In 1906 he was awarded a scholarship to Ruskin College; he did not graduate, but chose to return to the pit and trade unionism. In 1913 he was elected to Durham County Council and from 1919 until his retirement in 1949 was Labour MP for Chester-le-Street. In the 1924 Labour administration he was financial secretary to the War Office and in the Attlee government of 1945 was Secretary of State for War with the task of managing demobilization as efficiently as possible. In 1945 he was made a Privy Councillor, was Lord Lieutenant of Durham 1949-58, the first working man to hold the office, and was created 1st Baron Lawson of Beamish in 1950. Durham University conferred an honorary DCL on him in 1947 and he received the freedom of Sunderland in 1950. He wrote an autobiography, A Man's Life (1932) and lives of Peter Lee (1936) and Herbert Smith (The Man in the Cap) (1941). A selection of his broadcasts and sketches was published under the title Who Goes Home? (1945). He died in Chester-le Street on 3 August 1965 and was commemorated in a service in Durham cathedral.

  • Times, 4 & 7 Aug. 1965
  • Methodist Recorder, 12 Aug. 1965
  • M. Stenton & S. Lees, Who's Who of British MPs, vol. 4 (1981)
  • Joyce Bellamy and John Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography (1972-1993)
  • Oxford DNB