John A. Lawton
John A. Lawton earned his undergraduate and law school degrees from the University of Wisconsin in 1938 and 1941 respectively. He served as an Assistant District Attorney in Dane County from 1941 until 1946. While holding that position, he became President of AFSCME Local 720. He also served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin Council of County and Municipal Employees starting in 1944 and continuing through the 1950’s.
Mr. Lawton entered private practice in Madison in 1946, initially with Lyall T. Beggs and Gaylord A. Nelson. In 1958 he became a co-founder of Lawton & Cates, S.C. His legal practice included union organizing, handling grievances, and assisting in collective bargaining. In addition, Mr. Lawton served as legislative representative to numerous public employee unions in Wisconsin from the late 1940’s and continuing until well into the 1980’s.
As legislative representative, he drafted and shepherded through the legislative process a succession of laws enacted starting in 1959, which made Wisconsin the pioneer state in legislation encouraging unionism among public employees. He was successful in persuading both Republican and Democratic legislators to support these causes.
Mr. Lawton’s love of the out-of-doors had been nurtured by his upbringing in Montana, Wyoming, and Vernon County, Wisconsin. While practicing law full time, Mr. Lawton also served on the Department of Natural Resources Board from 1977 to 1989, under both Republican and Democratic governors. During six of those years, he was Chair of the Board. In 1989 he received the Pat Werner Award from the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club for his efforts as “devoted conservationist and persuasive advocate of environmental protection.” In 1989 the DNR dedicated the “John A. Lawton Fishery” on Tagatz Creek in Marquette County.
His talents as a legislative representative were recognized when he received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin. The award was in honor of his pro bono work for the Foundation, accomplished near the end of his career, during which he successfully advocated for legislation assuring care for kidney patients without adequate insurance coverage or other means to pay.
Throughout his career, Mr. Lawton advocated for fair treatment for the ordinary working person.