Dr. Theodore K. Lawless was born on December 6, 1892, in Thibodeaux, Louisiana, to Rev. Alfred Lawless and Harriet Dunn Lawless. After finishing rigorous academic studies and gaining worldwide success in his medical profession, Lawless became a dedicated philanthropist.
In 1914, he graduated from Talladega College with a B.A. He earned his M.D. from Northwestern University School of Medicine in 1919 and his M.A. from Northwestern University in 1920. In 1920, he studied dermatology at Columbia University, and in 1921, he enrolled at Harvard University.
Lawless attended the University of Paris from 1921 to 1922, the University of Freiburg from 1922 to 1923, and the University of Vienna from 1923 to 1924. He rose to prominence as a lecturer in Northwestern University’s Department of Dermatology in Chicago. He was also a physiology professor at Howard Medical School.
Dr. Lawless remained on the Northwestern faculty until 1940, when he retired to focus on his profession, treating patients, and investing his fortune. In the heart of Chicago’s African American population, Dr. Lawless established one of the city’s largest and most regarded dermatology clinics. Patients traveled from all across the country to seek his prized services.
He was the first Black member of Chicago’s Board of Health, and he was a member of various medical groups. Dr. Lawless’ generosity developed as his fortune grew, focusing on youth organizations in Chicago, Black educational institutions in the South, and Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel. Among Dr. Lawless’ many achievements and distinctions during his life is the 39th NAACP Moorland-Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor.