As a decorated member of the historic Buffalo Soldiers, Second Lieutenant Robert P. Madison decided to enroll in the architecture program at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, only to be summarily denied access based on his race. He returned in full dress uniform, with his Purple Heart from an injury sustained in Italy, and declared they could not keep him out of college. Under duress, he was admitted, but told by the administrators that he would never work as an architect.
How wrong they were. Madison opened the first African-American architect firm in Ohio in 1954, and only the 10th in the country. This was only the beginning of many accomplishments and contributions to American society, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the American Embassy in Senegal, Cleveland Browns Stadium, and buildings for Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University.
Robert Madison shaking hands with Mayor Carl Stokes, the first elected black mayor of a major U.S. city. Robert Madison was instrumental in his urban development planning.
“Between my life and the lives of relatives I have known, we cover a range of more than 160 years. That’s about two-thirds the history of the United States. My great-grandmother was born before the Civil War. I was born five years after the end of the first World War. I’ve endured the most bitter, impersonal hatred. I’ve known the sweetest, most personal love.
“Along the way, I received a first-class education and graduated from the best schools before opening my own business… I learned early on, however, that the halls of academe and the corner offices of the workplace are not the only way stations where one can learn about life.”
– Robert P. Madison, FAIA