The iconic “Theme Building” at the center of Los Angeles International Airport was designed in 1959 by architects William Pereira, Welton Becket and Paul Williams. Williams was the first African American architect in the western U.S.
Paul Revere Williams, a Los Angeles native, graduated from the University of Southern California in 1919 with an architecture degree and, in 1921, became the first African American certified architect west of the Mississippi River. Besides the Theme Building at LAX, Williams designed or had a hand in designing hundreds of public and private buildings in California, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, New York, the District of Columbia, Tennessee and in the South America. Included in Williams’ work in the Los Angeles area was the Ambassador Hotel, Arrowhead Springs Hotel & Spa, the Beverly Hills and Beverly Wilshire Hotels, First A.M.E Church, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building, Los Angeles County Courthouse, Los Angeles County Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Marina Del Rey Middle School, Martin Luther King, Jr. General Hospital, Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, Long Beach Naval Base and Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills. Some of Williams’ works are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The irony was that many of Williams’ earlier residential projects, especially those designed prior to the 1950s, could not have been sold to him as a home buyer, due to restrictive racial real estate covenants at the time that maintained segregated neighborhoods.
For more information, see Paul Revere Williams - Great American Architect.