A Memorial Service attended by hundreds was held March 13 at Bemidji State University for William Joseph “Bill” Lawrence, founding publisher of the Native American Press/Ojibwe News from 1988 to 2009, who passed away of cancer in Idaho on March 2, 2010.
Until he became ill, Lawrence had published the Native American Press/Ojibwe News from the Twin Cities and Bemidji. It was a member publication of the Minnesota Minority Media Consortium that is now the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium.
He received the Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2007, in part for his monumental legal effort to open the accounting books of Minnesota’s casinos, tribal government coverage and awareness projects on the impact of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Lawrence also authored a series of essays, “In Defense of Indian Rights” that were published in Beyond the Color Line, New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity, in America (Hoover Institution Press, 2002).
Lawrence was also an Adjunct Instructor of Investigative Reporting in the Mass Media Department at Bemidji State University in 2006.
Prior to his publishing career Lawrence held several tribal government roles including Executive Director of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe from 1978 to 1982 and Superintendent of the Colorado River Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1975 to 1978. He was also the Educational Administrator for the Minnesota Department of Education from 1968 to 1975 and Director of Economic Development and Planning for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians from 1968 to 1969.
He was also a private pilot with more than 1,200 hours, and was a contract representative for Honeywell Military Avionics Division from 1984 to 1992.
Lawrence was born in 1939 at Red Lake, Minnesota. He earned a degree in Business Administration at Bemidji State University in 1962, and served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Marine Corp from 1962 to 1966, serving in Vietnam and continuing as a Captain in the Marine Corp Reserves until 1978. He studied law and was awarded his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of North Dakota in 1972.
Lawrence is preceded in death by his parents, an elder brother and a son, and is survived by two daughters, four grandchildren, and partner Roxanne Jensen.