Leon Quincy Jackson was a notable African American architect and professor who built a number of private homes and civic buildings in Oklahoma and Tennessee in the modern style. Jackson earned an architecture degree from Kansas State University and a master’s in urban planning from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied under renowned architect Bruce Goff. In 1950, Jackson became the first African American architect to open an office in Oklahoma. While relying on his Kansas license, state officials made him withdraw his listing as an architect because he was not licensed in the state even though he had obtained an architecture degree from the state university.
In 1952, Jackson enrolled in the University of Oklahoma’s graduate program in urban planning under architect Bruce Goff. He received his master of science degree in city planning in August 1954. His attempt to register to take the two-day state licensing examination was rejected by state officials because of his race. Oklahoma Governor Johnson intervened and assisted Jackson in his attempt to take the examination. Jackson was forced to enter the testing site through the rear entrance, was made to ride the freight elevator instead of the passenger elevator and hustled to an unoccupied room where he took the test alone.
Jackson moved to Nashville in 1954 to teach engineering at Tennessee State University where he established the architectural engineering program. While he operated a private architectural practice and designed many private homes, health clinics, churches, civic buildings, educational facilities, and residential towers, he encountered years of hurdles and questionable rejections to his request to become a member of the Middle Tennessee Society of Architects. Several of Jackson’s midentury modern landmarks in Nashville and Oklahoma City still stand.
Edited and adapted from African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945 and Meet the 2015 Nashville Nine, Music City's Most Endangered Historic Properties by Nashville Scene.