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02/18/24 COMMEMORATING PROLIFIC ARCHITECT PAUL REVERE WILLIAMS

 

Today we commemorate architect Paul Revere Williams on his birthday, February 18, one of USC’s most important and impactful alumni. Born in 1894 in Los Angeles, Paul Revere Williams was one of the most prolific architects of the modern era with a career spanning six decades. He was a pioneer for the Black American community – a man who broke racial barriers, who believed that architecture could advance social progress. 

 

Williams studied architectural engineering at USC and went on to become the first Black American admitted to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923. He was subsequently elected to the AIA’s College of Fellows in 1957 and posthumously won the AIA Gold Medal in 2017. He served on many commissions for multiple U.S. presidents.  

 

His commissions and collaborations define twentieth century architecture. They include stunning residential projects for leaders in business such as E.L. Cord (1931) and Jay Paley (1934), as well as entertainment such as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (1954) and Frank Sinatra (1956); critically important civic buildings such as the Los Angeles County Courthouse (1951) and Los Angeles International Airport (1960); numerous religious structures ranging from Los Angeles’s Second Baptist Church (1924) to its First African Methodist Episcopal Church (1968); stylish resorts such as The Beverly Hills Hotel (1940s-1970s), and much more. 

 

Though partially lost in a 1992 fire during the civil unrest after the Rodney King verdicts, the archive of Paul R. Williams was jointly acquired in 2020 by the Getty Research Institute and the USC School of Architecture. The archive consists of original drawings, renderings and photos, magazines, and other records spanning Williams’ impactful career.  

 

More than just an archive of his work, the collection represents a window into the important impact he had on the architectural community, in Los Angeles, and around the world—an impact that only a handful of architects practicing at that time in history can claim.  

 

Paul R. Williams was simply in a class of his own: an accomplished architect – and the first licensed Black architect west of the Mississippi – who helped shape the Southern California aesthetic as a leading practitioner of mid-century modern design. 

 

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