Alumnus Paul R. Williams Honored at Modernism Week

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Alumnus Paul R. Williams Honored at Modernism Week

February 05, 2018

Paul R. Williams (B.Arch, 1919), a Los Angeles native and first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA),will be honored on Feb. 16 at Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Events include a special dedication ceremony on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars for the acclaimed modernist architect and two lectures in the Palm Springs Art Museum Annenberg Theater.


Aside from his trailblazing accomplishments, which included becoming an AIA fellow in 1957, Williams’ work was appreciated by his celebrity clients, who included Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra, with Hollywood stars still pining to live in his homes today.


During the early to mid-1900s, he gained some important nonresidential commissions, including the Music Corporation of America building and the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills in the mid-1930s. Williams designed more than 2,000 private homes, most of which were in the Hollywood Hills and the Mid-Wilshire portion of Los Angeles.


Williams was outspoken about the discrimination he faced as a black man working as an architect. In a 1937 essay for American Magazine called "I Am a Negro," Williams shared some of his own philosophy in regards to the current racial politics that affected his career.


Exactly 80 years later in 2017, Williams was honored posthumously with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the USC Architectural Guild 58th Annual Dinner. See the video here.


This year at Palm Springs Modernism Week, Alan Hess, architect and architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News, and Cory Buckner, AIA, will give back-to-back lectures on Williams’ work as an architect to the stars and his relationship with modernist architect A. Quincy Jones, respectively.


For more details on the events and to purchase tickets visit: