“Paul Revere Williams, FAIA (February 18, 1894 – January 23, 1980) was an American architect based in Los Angeles, California. He practiced largely in Southern California and designed the homes of numerous stars including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, and Charles Correll. He also designed many public and private buildings.
Williams won an architectural competition at age 25 and three years later opened his own office. Known as an outstanding draftsman, he perfected the skill of rendering drawings “upside down.” This skill was developed so that his white clients (who might have been uncomfortable sitting next to a black architect) could see the drawings rendered right side up across the table from him. Struggling to gain attention, he served on the first Los Angeles City Planning Commission in 1920. From 1921 through 1924, Williams worked for Los Angeles architect John C. Austin, eventually becoming chief draftsman, before establishing his own office. Williams became the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923. In 1939, he won the AIA Award of Merit for his design of the MCA Building in Los Angeles (now headquarters of the Paradigm Talent Agency).
A. Quincy Jones (1913–79) was an architect who is claimed to have hired Williams and later collaborated with him on projects in Palm Springs, including the Palm Springs Tennis Club (1947) and the Town & Country (1948) and Romanoff’s on the Rocks (1948) restaurants.
During World War II, Williams worked for the Navy Department as an architect. Following the war he published his first book, The Small Home of Tomorrow (1945), with a successor volume New Homes for Today the following year. In 1957, he became the first African-American to be voted an AIA Fellow.
In 1951, Williams won the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Man of the Year award and in 1953 he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP for his outstanding contributions as an architect and member of the African-American community. Williams also received honorary doctorates from Howard University (doctor of architecture), Lincoln University of Missouri (doctor of science), and the Tuskegee Institute (doctor of fine arts). In 2004, USC honored him by listing him among its distinguished alumni, in the television commercial for the school shown during its football games.
Williams was posthumously honored in 2008 with the Donald J. Trump Award for his significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of real estate throughout Greater Los Angeles. The award was accepted by his granddaughter, Karen Hudson. Donald Trump presented the award to Hudson via video presentation.
Williams famously remarked upon the bitter irony of the fact that most of the homes he designed, and whose construction he oversaw, were on parcels whose deeds included segregation covenants barring blacks from purchasing them.”
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