Son of Emma Gertrude and a1901graduate of Erie High School, Earl Lawrence distinguished himself early on as a gifted and talented musician and teacher. Earl operated his own music studio from 1916 to the Depression. He taught many distinguished and well-known Erie musicians from Mary Alice Brown to Bruce Morton Wright and many more. He was on the faculty of the Erie Conservatory and a member of the Erie Philharmonic, established and played with numerous bands and operated his own music studio from 1916 until the Great Depression. Master of more than a dozen instruments, Lawrence taught music to generations of students in the Fairview, Erie, Girard and Wattsburg school districts, while also serving on the faculty of the Erie Conservatory.
When Harry Burleigh returned to Erie, he stayed at the Lawrence Homestead on West Second Street. Burleigh helped to cultivate in Lawrence a belief in the power of music to help bridge social and racial differences. Beyond his work with various African American churches and the Booker T. Washington Center, Lawrence also performed with the local chapter of the Jewish human rights-centered organization B’nai Brith, as well as musical groups associated with some of Erie’s white ethnic communities.
In 1933, Earl E. Lawrence published the inaugural edition of a magazine called The New Deal – thetitle an homage to the program of sweeping social and economic reform being advanced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New Deal’smission was promoting “wherever possible the interests of the negro,” but more broadly—in keeping with the New Deal coming out of Washington—“the advancement of anything it considers to be for the great and general good of all the people.” Throughout its several years of publication, The New Deal discussed matters that remain hauntingly relevant nearly a century later, including the harmful effects of flying the Confederate flag, the power of “the colored vote” and the urgent need for the poor to unite across color lines for the general good of the city and the nation, and the scourge of police brutality against people of color.