The Passing of Emil Lawton

  • Posted on 2 October 2020
  • By Howard Strauss
On September 25, 2020, the Sierra Club lost one of its legendary leaders. Emil Lawton passed away at the age of 97 after a long and fruitful life, much of it centered around the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Not only was Emil an E rated outings leader (a rating that requires the possession of significant technical skills for rock, snow, and navigation), but he was also a long-time chair of the Angeles Chapter Political Committee. As Emil’s daughter Leona said, “The Sierra Club and this group was one of the things that kept him going for so long.” Not only that, but Emil’s leadership extended beyond the Angeles Chapter. He was also a member of the Sierra Club California Executive committee, where he served as the chair of its Political Committee for a number of years.
As an illustration of his many talents, in about 1975, Emil started the Conservation Training Course modeled after the Basic Mountaineering Training Course with about nine weekly lectures.
To give an example of the long and lasting impact Emil had on the Angeles Chapter, he was the recipient of the Lifelong Service Award, the Phil Bernays Service Award, and two Extraordinary Achievement Awards. And these awards were presented to him from 1978 to 1999. 
He also received the Dan Sullivan from Sierra Club California which recognizes an individual who has served Sierra Club California and participated in the long process to develop a more effective California state organization.

Emil pictured with his wife, Cynthia

Since his passing, tributes have been coming in from those who got to know this remarkable man. When Orange County formed its own political committee, he was there to help. When new people arrived for a meeting of the political committee, he always welcomed them and provided encouragement. 
He was a mentor to many and an inspiration to all. He will be missed. 
Photos are courtesy of Emil’s loving daughter, Leora.
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I only knew Emil since about 2015, but his memory will be a blessing to me.

Emil was a loving and supportive step-father for over half a century of my life. It was my step-father who introduced me to the Sierra Club and many wonderful adventures.

Always there to answer questions, Explain how he would approch the problem and what he would do .Will be missed ,taught us so we can follow his lead. BLESS YOU EMIL LAWTON


The political activities of Sierra Club are more important than ever, and Emil was committed to the idea that this element of Sierra Club was necessary and could be effective. It may sound strange to some that I view that as visionary, but, honestly, it kinda was. Good life, Emil. RIP.

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