Black History: Special Delivery!!
Paul R. Williams (1894-1980) was a renowned architect during a period in history where African American architects were rare. Williams was orphaned at 4 when his parents died. His new foster family recognized his artistic talents and encouraged him to utilize them. His career spanned 50 years and 3,000 projects.
Williams opened his own architectural firm at the age of 28. He mastered the skill of rendering his architectural drawings upside down. He developed this skill so that his white clients (who might have been uncomfortable sitting next to him because he was black) could see his drawings right side up as they sat across the table from him. Known as an architect to the stars, Williams designed homes for celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lou Chaney, Barbara Stanwyck, and Charles Correll.
In 1953 he received the prestigious Springarn Medal from the NAACP for his outstanding contributions as an architect and member of the African American Community. Williams in reflecting on his life noted the irony that most of the homes he designed and constructed were on property whose deeds included segregation covenants that prohibited blacks from purchasing the property.