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Harold L.
August 4,1924 - June 21,2015



In 1958, Harold Louis Williams was the 9th African American in history, to be licensed as an architect, in the State of California. A Los Angeles resident since 1955, Mr. Williams was born August 4, 1924, in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, to the late Leonard Harrison Williams, Sr. and Geneva Timberlake Williams. His one sibling was his older brother, the late Leonard H. Williams Jr. Both sons were raised in Cincinnati and were privileged recipients of much love and nurturing, from their college educated parents.




The Williams family was very artistic with backgrounds in music, art and theatre. They attended Mt. Zion Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, where Harold participated in church performances. He was active at the art museum, the community center, as well as a member of the Boy Scouts. At the age of 12 years, Harold’s artistic talent was evident and he knew he wanted to be an architect.




Harold attended elementary and secondary public schools in Cincinnati and in 1943 he graduated from Wilberforce Academy, at Wilberforce University, Ohio. That same year, he was drafted into the United States Navy, during World War II, where he took and passed the pilot examinations. However, in spite of passing the test Harold was denied the opportunity to fly because he was Black—a lifelong pain of discrimination. Instead, he served as a Radio operator First Class, on a sub-chaser in the Pacific, traveling to Philippines and other Pacific Islands. In 1944, while he was on leave in Los Angeles, Harold met the famed Black Architect, Paul Williams. Their relationship influenced his later decision to move to Los Angeles to practice architecture.




After an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy, Harold attended Talladega College, in Alabama, while awaiting admission into Architectural School. From 1947-1952, he studied at Miami University, School of Architecture, Oxford, Ohio and in 1952, he received a Bachelor of Architecture, as the only Black graduate of the program. From 1952-55, he worked on his first job in Cleveland, Ohio, as a draftsman for Fulton, Krinski and Dela Motte. Harold spent his last winter in Ohio in 1955, and moved to sunny California to work for Paul Williams from 1955 – 1960, and pursued graduate studies in Urban Planning, at the University of Southern California.




In 1952, Harold Williams met his future wife Betty Leola Smith, a student nurse at Western Reserve University (WRU), in Cleveland, Ohio. They married on July 10, 1954, at Betty’s home in South Bend, Indiana and were married for sixty years. Betty and Harold Williams shared interest in music and art and were dedicated to social change and civil rights. They traveled extensively and supported numerous local national civic organizations that fought for equal opportunity for all Americans. For fifty years, he practiced architecture in Los Angeles; established Harold Williams Associates (HWA), Architects & Urban Planners; and was a principal partner in Kinsey, Meeds & Williams. He was a Fellow of the prestigious American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and was Chief Architect on many public building projects in California including: Compton City Hall in 1976; South Central Los Angeles Multi-service and Child Development Center, 1976; Compton Civic Center, in 1977; California State Office Building, Civic Center, Van Nuys, in 1982; Fire Station Number 3, Compton, California, in 1989; the King Drew Medical Magnet High School, in 1996; and Delta Sigma Theta Life Development Center, in 1987. In 2013, when the Compton City Hall was cited for a Los Angeles Conservancy Award it was noted the City Hall, designed by Mr. Williams, symbolized a new era for Compton. The Compton City Hall—which is graffiti free--has been determined eligible for listing in the National Register as the finest building designed by Harold L. Williams, FAIA. The unique architecture of Compton City Hall and monument to Dr. Martin Luther King is replicated in badges worn by Compton Police and signage at entrances to the city.




In the 1960’s, Harold Williams organized the Southern California Association of Minority Architects & Planners (MAP), and served as its first President. In that capacity, he demanded participation in publically built environments and access to Affirmative Action programs, long denied to minority architects. In 1971, Mr. Williams co-founded the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and served as NOMA National President from 1981 – 1982. He is also a Charter member of The NOMA Foundation, and served as President and Treasurer.




Prior to the 1965 Watts riots, Harold Williams became concerned about the artistic and cultural environment in South Central Los Angeles. His concerns led him to become the first African American member of historic Committee for Simon Rodia”s Towers in Watts. Given his sensitivity to the issues facing the diverse Watts community, he insisted on policies that ensured local community participation in decisions about the preservation of Watts Towers. And, in his role as Chairman of the Watts Towers Committee from 1966 – 1970, a new Watts Towers Art Center Building was built with volunteer effort.




The accomplishments of Harold Louis Williams have been recognized locally and nationally. In addition to being a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, he was awarded recognition for excellence in design from the Society of American Registered Architects and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). In 1991, the Los Angeles NOMA Chapter honored him for Humanitarian Service and in 1994, he was elevated to the prestigious, College of Fellows, American Institute of Architects, “for outstanding service to the nation and the architectural profession.” He prided himself on repeat clients including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the City and County Governments of Los Angeles, as well as California State Universities.




Harold Williams became ill in May 2015, and died June 21, 2015, at the age of 90 years, from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. His survivors include his wife Dr. Betty Smith Williams, retired nursing professor, former Dean and Co-Founder of National Black Nurses Association. He leaves a sister in law, nieces and nephews, great nieces, great nephews, a first cousin and a host of mentees, he guided over decades. A Memorial Service will be held Friday, July 10, 2015, 1:00 PM at Angelus Funeral Home, 3875 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the National Organization of Minority Architects Inc., Attn: NOMA Treasurer, P. O. Box #81256, Chicago, Illinois 60681.






Memorial Service: Friday July 10, 2015 1:00 p.m.  Angelus Funeral Home Chapel

3875 Crenshaw Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90008




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