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Leatrice McKissack

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Information about Leatrice McKissack

Profile image of Leatrice McKissack

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Architecture Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Paris, France
Favorite Quote:
Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries. Live It While You Can.

Birthplace

Born:
7/27/1930
Birth Location:
Keytesville, Missouri

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Architecture Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Paris, France
Favorite Quote:
Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries. Live It While You Can.

Birthplace

Born:
7/27/1930
Birth Location:
Keytesville
See how Leatrice McKissack is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Leatrice B. McKissack was born Leatrice Buchanan to Catherine Brummell Buchanan and Archie Buchanan on July 27, 1930 in Keytesville, Missouri. McKissack was raised by her mother and stepfather, historian Dr. Alruthens A. Taylor, who was assistant to Dr. Carter G. Woodson and a dean at Nashville’s Fisk University. McKissack began her education at Marceline Elementary School in Missouri, attended Washington Junior High School in Nashville and graduated from Pearl High School in 1948. At Fisk University, she majored in chemistry and mathematics and was inspired by a faculty that included Aaron Douglas, Arna Bontemps, John W. Work, III, Langston Hughes and school president, Charles S. Johnson. In 1949, McKissack married William DeBerry McKissack, son of Moses McKissack, the 1905 founder of McKissack & McKissack, a historic African American architectural firm. McKissack graduated from Fisk University with her B.S. degree in mathematics in 1951. In 1957, she earned her M.S. degree in psychology from Tennessee State University.

McKissack began teaching elementary and junior high school students in Nashville’s segregated school system in 1952. However, poor health compelled her to resign in 1969. During her recuperation, McKissack collected the work of black artists and served on the Amistad II Art Advisory Board and the American Institute of Architects Auxiliary. McKissack assumed the management of the family-owned 216 unit College Hill Apartments in 1979. In 1983, after her husband suffered a stroke, she became the CEO of both McKissack & McKissack and McKissack Contracting Company. In 1984, McKissack sued the City of Nashville for racial discrimination and merged her firm with Thompson-Miller, becoming McKissack & McKissack & Thompson. In 1987, she was awarded the design contract for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. That same year, McKissack landed a $50 million contract from Howard University and won the National Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 1993, McKissack won the firm’s first contract with the TVA. She also recruited her three daughters, all professional engineers, back to the firm and expanded offices to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago. In 1991, she formed McKissack Development Corporation to build affordable housing.

McKissack has been a member of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Board of Economic Growth and President Clinton’s 1994 Design Award Jury. She is a board member of Fisk University, United Way, Cheekwood Fine Arts Center and the Nashville Symphony. McKissack’s many awards include the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Female Entrepreneur Award in 1990 and the Human Relations Award from the Nashville chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1996. The firm of McKissack & McKissack has been honored by the National Park Service by the listing of four of its buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

McKissack was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 13, 2007.

See how Leatrice McKissack is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leatrice McKissack's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her mother's second marriage
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack describes her earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her family's farm in Keytesville, Missouri
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack describes her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack describes her stepfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the winters in Missouri
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Leatrice McKissack describes the smells and sounds of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Leatrice McKissack remembers walking to school in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her friends at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack recalls Marceline Colored School in Marceline, Missouri
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her early interest in science
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her schools and early aspirations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack remembers how she met her husband
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack describes her husband
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack recalls working for Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack remembers Pearl High School in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her studies at Fisk University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack describes her experiences at Pearl High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the notable figures at Fisk University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Leatrice McKissack remembers lessons from her mother
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack describes her interest in cooking
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack recalls teaching at Meigs Junior High School in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls teaching at Wharton Elementary and Junior High School in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her early involvement in McKissack and McKissack
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack remembers traveling with Calvin McKissack, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack remembers traveling with Calvin McKissack, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack describes the poverty she witnessed in Haiti
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the construction of the Tuskegee Army Airfield
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack remembers undergoing a series of surgeries
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her mother's heart attack
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her third operation
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her mother's death
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the deaths of friends and family
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her early role at McKissack and McKissack
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her husband's stroke
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack recalls restoring the president's home at Tuskegee Institute
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her experiences of racial discrimination
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack remembers suing the City of Nashville, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack remembers suing the City of Nashville, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack describes her interactions with banks
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack remembers the executives at McKissack and McKissack
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls promoting a secretary
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack recalls selling McKissack and McKissack's construction company
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack recalls uncovering corruption in McKissack and McKissack, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack recalls uncovering corruption in McKissack and McKissack, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack recalls being hired for a project at Howard University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack talks about her daughters' careers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack reflects upon her success as a manager
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack recalls an incident with an employee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack describes her reforms at McKisssack and McKissack
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack recalls working on the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her favorite architectural projects
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack remembers collaborating with government officials
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack describes the African American community in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack talks about racial discrimination in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Leatrice McKissack talks about her racial identity
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack describes her plans for the future of her company
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack narrates her photographs