February 8

Today, I’d like to honor the first African American to be elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1957, Paul R. Williams. He was licensed as an architect in 1921 by the state of California and became the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923. Mr. Williams went on to design some pretty famous landmarks like MCA & Saks Fifth Avenue as well as some homes of the rich and famous like Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz and Frank Sinatra. You can read more about him on the webpage dedicated to him, http://www.paulrwilliamsproject.org.

The first female African American architect was Norma Sklarek. She was first licensed in 1954 by the state of New York on her first attempt at passing the exam. She, too, was honored with a Fellowship from the American Institute of Architects in 1980. And furthermore, was the first African American woman to establish and maintain an architectural firm. Some of her most famous buildings include the American Embassy in Tokyo, the Fox Plaza in San Francisco, and Terminal One at LAX. Check out her extensive biography here on biography.com’s article, “Norma Sklarek – Architect.”