A trailblazer in the field of architecture for architects of color
Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894 and was orphaned by the age of four. He attended USC’s School of Engineering, became a licensed architect in the State of California by 1921, and in 1923 he opened his own practice. That same year, Williams became the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Williams rose to the top of his profession and was one of the most prolific architects of his time. Long before the civil rights movement, he overcame prejudice, designing homes for millionaires and movie stars in neighborhoods Black people were not allowed in at the time. Stars like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra were among his clientele.
In the 1940’s, Williams helped redesign the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. In fact, the hotel’s sign is in Williams’ own handwriting. Even though he was one of the hotel’s designers, he dealt with discrimination and was unable to stay as a guest because he was Black.
History of his work remains within the walls of several buildings throughout Southern California. The Los Angeles County Courthouse, Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, and the Los Angeles International Airport are a few. Williams also had a passion for cultural projects including public housing, helping design Pueblo Del Rio and Nickerson Gardens in Los Angeles.
In 1957, he was the first Black man elected a Fellow of AIA. During his five-decade career, he designed thousands of buildings. By 1973 he retired and died in 1980 at the age of 85. Posthumously, Williams was awarded AIA’s 2017 Gold Medal, the highest award recognizing an architect. Williams never let discrimination overshadow his talents and continues to be an inspiration for young architects of color.
To become a licensed California architect, or to find out more about the profession and its services, visit www.cab.ca.gov. If you are interested in hiring an architect, check out CAB’s “Consumer’s Guide to Hiring and Architect” and check the professional’s license at search.dca.ca.gov.