Iris Elaine Sanders Lawrence, 75, of Amarillo, Texas passed away on Tuesday, September 18, 2018.
Iris Lawrence was born in Amarillo, Texas, on March 17, 1943, to John D. Sanders and Irene Mattie Cox Sanders. She married Johnny Walker, Sr., and to that union, one child, Taji Rachaun, was born. Iris was later married to Elton Lawrence.
Born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, she was the first “Miss Black Amarillo,” in 1955. Iris graduated with honors from G. W. Carver School in 1960 and attended Howard University and later graduated from Saint Augustine College, Raleigh, North Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English. Postgraduate work was completed at West Texas State University and later at East Texas State University for special studies and Psychology.
As a Christian, Iris devoted her life to Christ at an early age and was a member in good standing at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. She was a life member, former President and a current member of the President’s Advisory Committee of the NAACP Amarillo Branch. In retirement, she served as Director and Volunteer for the Hilltop Senior Citizens Association until her departure in 2013.
As a community and political activist, Ms. Lawrence participated in the first Amarillo sit-in at J.C. Kress and Company and a walk-in at the Paramount Theater in 1959 and 1961. She broke the color barrier in Amarillo, Texas in many ways as the first African American female hired at Fedway Department Store, Diamond Shamrock, Levi Strauss, and a member of the Amarillo Community Singers. She was also an English educator at Tascosa High School. Iris was the first African American female, Potter County Democratic Chairperson. Later, Iris was appointed by the late Governor Ann Richards as a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles; elected Potter County Commissioner, Precinct No. 4 and an elected member of the Democratic National Committee. She worked tirelessly and intentionally in making the world a better place and her work with the youth is legendary. She organized “Voice of the People” and worked with the “YES” Program of the Amarillo Independent School District.
Iris Sanders Lawrence has received many, many honors and awards for her endeavors locally, state-wide and nationally. She was definitely known as a “mover and a shaker” in the community and as one to get things done for the betterment of the community and especially people of color. Her nice, gracious, and quiet demeanor rendered her very approachable and highly effective. Her motto was succinctly, “Live and Let Live”, and “Keep on Keeping On!” Her favorite scripture was: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6. Family ties were the most important necessity from which she drew her strength and focus. Iris was always very devoted to family whom she dearly loved.
She was preceded in death by her parents, a brother, J. D. Sanders, a sister, Joni Dell Gilstrap and a niece, Gwen Ward.
Ms. Lawrence leaves to cherish her memory, her daughter, Taji Rachaun Session of Amarillo, Texas and a brother, Virgil Lewis (Sharon) Sanders of Mobile, Alabama, four grandchildren, Tony Delvin (Kylie) Thompson, II, Tori Delchaun Thompson, Tairen Delano (Lexie) Thompson, and Siri Delaun Session, six great-grandchildren, Eli Braxton Thompson, Kota Che’ Thompson, Monte Bo Thompson, Graison O’Chaun Knight, Graislyn Elaine Knight and Addy’Lynn Dia Thompson, two nephews, David (Roberta) Fitzpatrick and Jay (Wanda) Sanders, three nieces, Courtney (Dylan) Warmack, Velinda Sanders, and Phyllis Sanders-Calvin, three God children, Karl Fernandes, Tara “Sister” Lynn Gidden, and Jennifer Sherwood and a devoted host of adopted family, friends and beloved fur-baby, Chula.