Professor Charles R. Lawrence III was born on May 4, 1943 in New York City. He attended Spring Valley public schools in New York; and, in 1965, graduated with his B.A. degree from Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania. In 1969, he received his J.D. degree from Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut.
From 1969 to 1970, Lawrence served as an attorney and research associate at the Harvard Center for Law and Education an as an assistant professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. From 1970 to 1972, he was director and principal of the Highland Park Free School in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1972, Lawrence was hired as a senior attorney at Public Advocates in San Francisco, California where he also served as a professor of law at the University of San Francisco School of Law from 1974 to 1986. During this time he also served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School from 1979 to 1980, the University of California at Berkeley School of Law from 1981 to 1982, and the UCLA School of Law in 1986. He worked as a tenured professor at Stanford Law School from 1986 to 1993 and at Georgetown University Law Center from 1993 to 2012. During this time, Lawrence also briefly served as a visiting professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law from 1991 to 1992, and at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa from 2004 to 2005. Lawrence later joined the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law in 2008 where he served as professor of law and Centennial University Professor. During his career, Lawrence specialized in antidiscrimination law, equal protection, and critical race theory. He has co-authored three books: The Bakke Case: The Politics of Inequality (1979), Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and The First Amendment (1993), and We Won't Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action (1997).
Lawrence served as a member of the District of Columbia Board of Education, National Public Radio, and several other public interest boards.
During his career, Lawrence received numerous awards, including the University of San Francisco School of Law's Most Distinguished Professor Award in 1978, the John Bingham Hurlburt Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Society of American Law Teachers National Teaching Award in 2003. He was also awarded honorary doctorates from Haverford College in 2000, Georgetown University Law Center in 2017, and Nelson Mandela University in 2019.
Charles R. Lawrence III was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 9, 2019.