Black History Month: How Come I’ve Never Heard of Paul Williams?
How come we have never been taught in school about our country's first African-American architect with mass appeal , Paul Revere Williams? (Perhaps you were taught about him, but I wasn't taught about him in school where I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.)
Paul Williams was based in Los Angeles and designed and built many public and private buildings in California. He was also in high demand by the affluent to design and build their private Beverly Hills homes. Hollywood celebrities hired him to design and build their glamorous homes, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and many more.
Despite having such fame and prestige, Paul was not allowed to live in the segregated Hollywood neighborhoods he built or even eat by the pool while working on location, after all, it was still the 1920's and segregation was still in full swing.
Paul had to learn how to draw his blueprints upside down because many of his white clients felt uncomfortable sitting so close to a Black man. It is an unfortunate fact that in many cases, African-Americans have to adapt to others' hyper-sensitivities and work ten times harder just to be accepted in the workplace. Paul Williams was no exception.
Here's another wild fact that I didn't know: It is Paul Williams' own handwriting that we see scrawled on the front of the "Crescent Wing" of the 5-star Beverly Hills Hotel. He is the one who designed and built that section of this fancy hotel. Think of that the next time you visit, see a picture or hear the name of this world-famous hotel.