Paul Revere Williams
Born in 1894 in Los Angeles to Memphians Lila Wright Williams and Chester Stanley Williams, Paul Revere Williams was one of the most admired and successful architects of the twentieth century. He was also the first documented African-American member and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
He graduated from the acclaimed Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, and from there received training from the Los Angeles branch of the New York-based Beaux-Arts Institute. While working for a number of architectural firms, he attended the USC School of Engineering from 1916 through 1919.
Williams’ handful of Las Vegas projects spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s provides a telling window into his long international career as an award-winning architect. His completed Nevada projects include the La Concha Motel and the Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip as well as Carver Park, the Basic Magnesium Incorporated housing tract in Henderson which provided affordable homes for hundreds of African-American families who had been recruited from the Deep South to work in the factory making lightweight airplane parts. He also designed the Berkley Square subdivision, now listed on the National Register of Historic Place, which provided a turning point in providing decent housing in West Las Vegas.
Williams also earned the moniker of “Architect to the Stars” by designing homes for golden-age Hollywood stars and influential business tycoons such as Tyrone Powers, Lon Chaney, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Jay Paley, Barbara Stanwyck, William Paley and Frank Sinatra. His 60-year career in architecture included the creation of more than 3,000 residential, governmental and commercial buildings.
During his career, Williams served as president of the Advisory Committee for the State of California, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; chairman of the board of the Community Service Center in Los Angeles, which found housing and jobs for newly arrived African Americans in Los Angeles; and board member for numerous organizations, including Catholic Big Brothers and Jewish Big Brothers of Los Angeles, United Service Organization (USO) and the American Red Cross.
Williams retired in 1973 and, in 1974, the AIA elected him to Emeritus status. He was awarded the City Council Commendation for Artistic Contribution to Los Angeles in 1977 and died on January 23, 1980.