Paul Revere Williams ’19, California’s first licensed African-American architect, helped define the look and feel of Los Angeles with more than 3,000 buildings across the city. Many of the buildings he helped design over his five-decade career are instantly recognizable to Angelenos today, from the grand residences of stars like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra to landmarks like the Beverly Hills Hotel and LAX’s spaceship-like Theme Building (part of a collaboration with noted LAX architects William Pereira, Charles Luckman and Welton Becket).
A longtime resident of West Adams, Williams enrolled in USC’s architecture engineering program in 1916 after the young architect was advised that he needed to learn the math and physics behind his creative visions. Soon, Williams was combining practical construction with a mastery of styles ranging from Colonial to Spanish. He rose to a prolific career in LA’s burgeoning design scene before retiring in 1973.
Last fall, South Central Los Angeles Regional Center, a community-based nonprofit, unveiled a memorial to the iconic architect in the plaza of one of his structures, the Golden State Mutual Building in LA’s historic West Adams neighborhood. The bronze relief created by local artist Georgia Hanna Toliver highlights 23 of Williams’ famed buildings.
Created 35 years after his death, the sculpture is an enduring tribute to a trailblazer who persisted through the racism of his time to shape the city of his birth.