While driving back from Boston three weeks ago, I happened to listen to a very interesting story about a real pioneer. His name was Paul Revere Williams.
Paul R. Williams (as he was known) was born in Los Angeles on February 18, 1894. When he was two years old, his father died; when he was four, his mother followed in death. He and his older brother Chester, Jr. were placed in separate foster homes. Here Paul caught a break — his foster family placed a high value on education and the development of artistic talent.
Paul’s talent led him to architecture, even though a teacher advised against it. But young Paul didn’t give up. He pursued architectural education and professional experience with Los Angeles’ leading design firms while developing social and business networks. Certified as a building contractor in 1915, he was licensed as an architect by the State of California in 1921. He did well in architectural competitions and, with the respect and encouragement of his employers, Williams opened his own practice and became a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923.
Williams’ early practice flourished as a designer of small, affordable houses for new homeowners and larger, historic revival-style homes for more affluent clients. As his reputation grew, his practice expanded to include buildings now considered landmarks: the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), MCA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Palm Springs Tennis Club, and Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building. The private residences he designed for leaders in business and entertainment became legendary: Bert Lehr, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Frank Sinatra were among his clients.
Over five decades, Williams designed thousands of buildings, served on many municipal, state and federal commissions, and was active in political and social organizations. He frequently donated his time and skills to projects he believed furthered the health and welfare of young people, Southern California and greater society. In 1957, he was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Paul R. Williams retired from practice in 1973 and died in 1980 at the age of 85. He was awarded AIA’s 2017 Gold Medal, the highest annual honor recognizing individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on architecture.
His legacy has spawned several books and the Paul R. Williams Project, which is dedicated to expanding public knowledge about his accomplishments. Since Paul’s parents, Chester Stanley Williams, Sr. and Lila A. Wright Williams, were from Memphis, the project began in 2006 as an initiative of the Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 1960, Paul R. Williams had contributed his design for the original building of Memphis’ St. Jude Research Hospital for Children, which was the dream of his friend Danny Thomas.
What makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable is because this is Paul R. Williams —
Read more about Paul Revere Williams at http://www.paulrwilliamsproject.org/ . The photo came from that website.