Robert P. Madison
28 July 1923(Birth)
Robert (Bob) Prince Madison is the first registered African American architect in Ohio and established his firm on July 17, 1954, two months to the day after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision where the U.S. Supreme court unanimously ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
Madison’s enduring designs have become a part of the state’s iconography and the city of Cleveland’s best expressions of itself. Madison’s work includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (with I.M. Pei, his Harvard classmate), the Cleveland Browns Football Stadium (now FirstEnergy Stadium), the Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball Stadium (also known as the Great Lakes Center), and additions or renovations to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Though he primarily practiced in Ohio, Madison’s work stretches across the nation and around the world. A few examples are the nuclear and engineering facility at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, Plymouth Housing Estate in Detroit, Michigan, and the U.S. Embassy Office Building in Dakar, Senegal in West Africa.
Robert was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His father was a trained engineer, but due to discrimination, he never found employment as an engineer. Madison attended East Technical High School in Cleveland and graduated with honors in mathematics and science. He entered Howard University but suspended his education to serve in the 92nd Infantry Division (referred to as the “Buffalo Soldiers” regiment), as a second lieutenant in the segregated U.S. Army during World War II. For his service, Madison received three combat ribbons and the Purple Heart.
After the war, he graduated from Case Western University. He became the first African American to graduate from the University’s School of Architecture after initially being told he could not attend due to the color of his skin. He earned a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University, then continued his architectural education as a Fulbright Scholar at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1949, he married Leatrice Lucille Branch. Before the marriage, Madison was briefly engaged to Coretta Scott, before she married Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
On May 4, 2018, director and producer Derek E. Morton premiered his documentary film, “Deeds Not Words: Conversations with Robert P. Madison.” The film chronicled the architect’s life and work. During a pre-screening for New York’s AIA members, Madison was on hand to answer questions. When an audience member asked, “What would you consider your best work and why?” Madison laughed and then shrugged, “That’s like asking who’s your best daughter or best son.”
"Memoir tells story of Ohio’s first black architect, Robert P. Madison," cleveland.com, accessed July 4, 2020.
"Architecture and Civil Rights Leader Robert P. Madison Shares His Story in New Documentary," Architectural Record, accessed July 4, 2020.