Pioneering Black Architects In North Carolina

Before 1970, black architects in North Carolina had a scarcity of predominantly white-dominated professions. For white women, breaking into this field was challenging enough, but for minorities, it was exceedingly difficult, with only a handful present for decades.

In 1950, few black architects were registered in North Carolina. By 1980, this number had only accelerated to sixty-five out of 1909 architects. Even in 1993, blacks represented seven out of five American Institute of Architects (AIA) members.

This series highlights courageous North Carolina pioneers who defied social and business norms to work in construction. Despite the progress, black architects remain underrepresented in NC.

Read About Some Black Architects in North Carolina

Henry Beard Delany (1858-1928)

black architects in North Carolina | Henry Beard Delany

Delany was born to parents who were enslaved people in Georgia. He grew up in Fernandina, FL.

John Merrick (1859–1919)

John Merrick

John Merrick was born into slavery in Clinton, North Carolina. His father, the son of the plantation owner, denied any responsibility for John, his brother Richard, or their mother Margaret.

William W. Smith (1862–1937)

William W Smith

Smith was born in Mecklenburg County and spent his entire life there.

Robert Robinson Taylor (1868-1942)

Robert Robinson Taylor

Robert Robinson Taylor, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, was the first African American to receive professional training in architecture in the United States.

Gaston Alonzo Edwards (1875-1943)

Gaston Alonzo Edwards

Gaston Alonzo Edwards was born in 1875. He was the first African American architect to become licensed in North Carolina and held the distinction of being the state’s only registered black architect for many years.

William Henry Pittman (1875-1958)

William Henry Pittman

Pittman was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He enrolled at Tuskegee Institute in 1892 and graduated with a mechanical and architectural drawing degree in 1897.

Calvin Esau Lightner (1877–1960)

Calvin Esau Lightner

Lightner was originally from Winnsboro, South Carolina, and in 1881, his family relocated to North Carolina.

Julian Francis Abele, AIA (1881-1950)

Julian Francis Abele

Julian Francis Abele was one of the most prolific architects in America between 1890 and 1920. 

John Aycocks Moore (1888-1939)

John Aycocks Moore

Moore was born in Rock Hill near Wilmington. His father was a farm worker, and his mother was a homemaker. 

Hilyard Robert Robinson (1899-1986)

Hilyard Robert Robinson

Robinson graduated from M Street High School in 1916 and studied at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Arts, leaving in 1917.

Dewitt Sanford Dykes, AIA (1903–1991)

Dewitt Sanford Dykes

Dykes was born in Gadsden, Alabama, and developed an interest in masonry, which later fueled his aspiration to become an architect.

Henry Lewis “ACE” Livas (1912–1979)

Henry Lewis "ACE" Livas

Livas was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In July 1944, he enrolled at Pennsylvania State College School of Engineering, earning an MS in architectural engineering and a minor in Architecture.

Jasminius “J. W. R.” Wilsoni Rudolphus Grandy III

Jasminius "J. W. R." Wilsoni Rudolphus Grandy III

Grandy was born into a large family with 16 siblings in Windsor, NC. While pursuing graduate school in landscape architecture at Cornell University between 1940 and 1942.

Floyd A. Mayfield (1898-1975)

Floyd A. Mayfield

Mayfield was born and raised in Lake Providence, LA. He was among the first black candidates to run for Greensboro City Council.

Gerard E. Gray, AIA (1919-2001)

Gerard E. Gray

Gray was born in Cheraw, South Carolina. He graduated from A&T with honors in 1942 and later served in the US Army during WWII.

William Alfred Streat, JR., AIA (1920-1994)

William Alfred Streat

Streat was born in Clover, Virginia. From 1950 to 1952, he worked as a structural consultant for Edward Loewenstein in Greensboro.

Willie Edward  “BLUE” Jenkins (1923-1988)

Willie Edward  BLUE Jenkins

Jenkins was born in Raleigh and appointed to the North Carolina Board of Architecture in 1975.

William Gupple (1923-2002)

William Gupple

Gupple was a passionate artist who loved to draw. His ultimate dream was to become an architect.

Willix Emmanuel Merritt JR. (1928-2008)

Willix Emmanuel Merritt

Merritt was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and served as a First Lieutenant in the Army during World War II.

Clinton Eugene Gravely, AIA

Clinton Eugene Gravely

Clinton Gravely spent his childhood in Reidsville, NC, where his father and grandfather worked as contractors.

Major Spencer Sanders. JR., AIA

Major Spencer Sanders

Sanders was born in Concord, North Carolina. He began studying Architectural Engineering at NC A&T University in 1961.

Harvey Bernard Gantt, FAIA

Harvey Bernard Gantt

Gantt graduated second from Burke High School in Charleston, SC. Gantt received the AIANC Award of Excellence in Architecture in 1981.

George Harold Williams, AIA

George Harold Williams

Williams grew up in Durham, attended Hillside High School, and developed an interest in architecture in 9th grade. He pursued his passion by taking drafting courses and eventually earned a BA in Architecture from Howard University in 1966.

Joseph Henry Yongue, AIA

Joseph Henry Yongue

Joseph Yongue graduated from NC A&T in 1969 with a degree in Architectural Engineering after attending high school at Second Ward.

Arthur (ART) John Clement

Arthur (ART) John Clement

Arthur Clement grew up near NCCU in Durham, where his mother, Josephine D. Clement, was a faculty member.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *