Thomas Lawson grew up in the high desert city of Prineville, Oregon, joining the U.S. Air Force on graduating high school. When he arrived in Alaska in 1978, he leveraged his military skillset and took up a career as an ironworker. Tom Lawson was the guy who helped populate the Anchorage skyline with high rise office towers during the boom years.
Slow Winter Lawson
But winter was a slow time for Lawson and construction work in general. He supplemented by driving for Yellow Cab. In that job, drivers often take what they can get. When an open call came in just after midnight, Lawson grabbed it. He just happened to be in the area. It was his turn to take a call.
Lawson was, by all accounts, a straight arrow. Friends said he didn’t drink. He was interested in politics and government — a member, in fact, of the ultra-right John Birch Society. “Tom as one of the most true-blue patriots I have ever known,” noted Brad Bradley, in a tribute to his friend.
He gave his money and time generously to many worthwhile local, state, and national organizations. He went out of his way to help people, and often reminded himself and others of how fortunate we were to be Americans.Brad Bradley, Letter to the Editor, Anchorage Daily News, January 22, 1984
On Saturday, January 14, 1984, local residents called cops to report a taxi seen idling in the middle of their street. Police found Lawson mortally wounded in his cab, a gunshot wound to the head. An ambulance rushed him to Humana Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Thomas Lawson had only recently celebrated his 45th birthday.
With Lawson’s background, there was a momentary flash. Was his death somehow related to his political affiliations? But Lawson’s friends insisted he wasn’t facing any threats. According to fellow ironworker Jack Moses, “As far as I know he didn’t have an enemy in the world.” Scene evidence, moreover, showed he was robbed. Then there was the location of his last pickup. Muldoon Road.
Muldoon already had a reputation as a rough neighborhood. Only four years previous, another taxi driver was flagged in that same neighborhood. And found shot in the head the following day. Could this be history repeating itself?
Sources: Anchorage Daily News (Tom Kizzia, Larry Campbell); Anchorage Daily Times (Cary Virtue)
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2022). All rights reserved.