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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Melanie Lawson celebrates 40 years at abc13 KTRK

Melanie Lawson, a Houston institution, is celebrating 40 years with abc13 KTRK.  For a generation of Bayou City television news viewers, she represents the 5pm news. 

On September 13, 1982, Lawson started as a new reporter for channel 13 Houston's Eyewitness News under news director Walt Hawver. He was the only Walt in charge at the time since Disney would not buy the station until the next decade.

Lawson returned to Houston with multiple degrees and areas of study under her belt.  She first graduated from Princeton University in 1976 where she studied politics.  Next she earned a joint degree in both Law and Journalism from Columbia University in 1980.

When returning to Houston for her new KTRK position, Lawson was transition from one area of study to another.  For the three years prior, she worked for a Wall Street law firm with what she felt was little prospects for the future.

“On the surface, it appeared that they were unbiased, but many of the largest firms and investment houses had only a few black professionals, if they had any at all, and most of those professionals tended to hit the glass ceiling early, and hard," Lawson told the Houston Chronicle in 2012.  "You couldn't see it until you were nearly hitting your head on it, but it was there."

Growing up in Houston's Third Ward, Melanie watched her father, the Reverend William D. Lawson, and mother Audrey, found Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Observing a trailblazer such as Rev. Lawson, who became friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and advanced civil rights in Houston, put Melanie on a path to make advancements of her own.

"For such a long time, I felt as though our stories weren't being told," Lawson told Bishop James Dixon in 2021.  "They weren't being properly told in a lot of cases. That it's easy to do a drive by in a neighborhood or, you know, talk to somebody today about, you know, a shooting or a fire or whatever. But there's some neighborhoods where the roots are deep, the stories are strong, and yet they're not being told. So I felt as though my mission was to represent people who grew up in the city, people who love this city, but whose voices were not always heard."

Today Lawson anchors "Live at 5" and Eyewitness News at 11am with numerous awards including EMMYs, interviews with three US presidents among other notable newsmakers, and enough hours of community involvement to make her parents proud. It would actually be difficult to list everything Lawson has accomplished in this post, so go read her bio for details here.

Not just an anchor, Lawson continually works on reporting impactful stories and documentaries when off the news desk. 

No one reads this blog for my personal anecdotes, but I will add a story that I don't think Lawson will mind me sharing. 

As a young abc13 special projects producer, my father suddenly passed away.  If you see my current day Alzheimer's Association advocacy work you might know my mom was battling the disease at the same time.  There were few people in my life at the time to even talk to me about what was going on or how to deal with it.  

One night, I received a call from Melanie asking me how I was doing. And she kept checking in on me.  Around that time, I was about to ask my now wife to marry me.  Melanie offered to let it happen on her home's balcony overlooking scenic Houston views.  To this day, I have a mirror hanging by our back door that Melanie gave us as a wedding present.  It makes me think of her kindness daily.

Her thoughtfulness, warmth and intelligence will never be forgotten by this blogger. I write this to demonstrate the type of person Melanie Lawson is on TV and off.

Fun fact:  Lawson and now retired abc13 morning anchor Tom Koch started at KTRK on the same day.

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