The Paul R. Williams Project began in early 2006 as an initiative of the Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in honor of the 150th anniversary of the AIA. The Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM) was invited to collaborate and, with an active advisory committee of AIA members in and beyond Memphis, AMUM took on the task of developing and administering the project.
Why would the AIA Memphis 150 Committee and AMUM focus on Paul R. Williams, an architect who was born in Los Angeles and whose career, though national and international, was largely realized in Southern California?
Memphis has an historical interest in Paul R. Williams. His parents, Chester Stanley Williams, Sr. and Lila A. Wright Williams were from Memphis, where Chester Williams worked at the famous Peabody Hotel, and where Paul’s brother, Chester, Jr., was born before the family moved to Los Angeles in 1893. Decades later in 1960, Paul R. Williams contributed his design for the original building of Memphis’ renowned St. Jude Research Hospital for Children, which was the realized dream of his friend Danny Thomas.
The Paul R. Williams Project is dedicated to expanding public knowledge about this American architect, whose extraordinary accomplishment was achieved against a background of pervasive racism in a particularly exclusionary profession.
AIA Memphis presented the Paul R. Williams project to the national organization, which sanctioned it as part of the AIA150 celebration in 2007 and 2008. This website is a product of the original project.
The Timeline illustrates how material history, society and the work of one person, Paul R. Williams, integrate and interact. Small changes in society, architecture or life may seem inconsequential, but when connected a powerful picture emerges. The Timeline illustrates how many forces shape our modern life. Williams’ life did not form in isolation but was a product of complex energies in society, his profession and within himself.