Visionary STEM Leader

Paul Revere Williams

February 18, 1894 – January 23, 1980

Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894, not long after his family had moved from Memphis, TN. Unfortunately, by age 4, Paul and his brother Chester Jr. became orphans and were separated in the foster system.

Luckily for Williams, he grew up in a foster home with a mother who supported his education and artistic talent. Williams showed a great interest in architecture during his high school years but was constantly told by mentors that he would have difficulty finding work as an architect due to not being white. Williams was the only African-American child in his elementary school.

Williams did not let the barriers stop him from pursuing his dreams. After high school, he started interning at a few of Los Angeles’ leading design firms while attending Los Angeles Beau-Arts School. In 1915, Williams was a certified building contractor and obtained a degree in Architectural Engineering from University of Southern California in 1919.

Licensed as an Architect by the State of California in 1921, Williams started making waves in the architectural world. He defied color barriers and not only opened his own architecture firm, but also became the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923.

Over Williams’ career, he designed for some of the Southern California elite: Fortune 100 companies, Hollywood celebrities, and more. Some of his most notable work include projects at Los Angeles International Airport, Beverly Hills Hotel, Palm Springs Tennis Club, and Frank Sinatra’s house.

Education

  • Polytechnical High School
  • Some College at Los Angeles Beaux-Arts School
  • University of Southern California, School of Engineering, 1919

 

Special Affiliations, Awards, and Honors

  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Man of the Year award
  • Spingarn Medal, NAACP
  • Honorary Doctorates, Lincoln University of Missouri, Howard University, Tuskegee Institute
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA), gold medal, 2017
  • AIA’s College of Fellows, first Black member inducted, 1957

 

Quote

“If you have a picture in your mind of Southern California in the 1950s and early 1960s, you are quite likely picturing a building created by Paul Williams.” – LA Times

Links to References

Text: Paul Williams Project

Text: NPR

Text: Los Angeles Conservancy

Quote: ArchDaily