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Leon Bridges

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Information about Leon Bridges

Profile image of Leon Bridges

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Architect

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Spaghetti
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/18/1932
Birth Location:
East Los Angeles, California

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Architect

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Spaghetti
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/18/1932
Birth Location:
East Los Angeles
See how Leon Bridges is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Leon Bridges was born on August 18, 1932 in the East Los Angeles, California barrio of Boyle Heights. His mother was a postal worker and his father worked various jobs. There, he attended Foshay Elementary School in Los Angeles. As a youngster he enjoyed drawing floor plans and building designs and knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career in architecture. While a student at Adams Junior High School he met his mentor, famed African American architect, Paul Williams. Bridges earned his high school diploma from Dorsey High School in 1950 where he was a member of the track team.

After graduation he attended East Los Angeles Junior College, Los Angeles City College and the University of California, Los Angeles. While a student at UCLA, Bridges was drafted into the military in 1952, and was stationed in Japan. While a soldier, he continued to study architecture. He also began to pursue an acting career and appeared as an extra in several movies and toured with the Griffith Park Greek Theatre Light Opera Company from 1950 through 1952. He earned his bachelor’s of architecture from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1960.

While still a student at the University of Washington, Bridges received his first job in 1956 as a draftsman. During the summer of 1957, he worked as an intern for California architect Alan Morris and supervised the construction of a house. From 1959 through 1961, he worked for a small architecture firm designing houses. His first design was for a home that was just 1350 square feet. From 1961 through 1963, Bridges worked for the architecture firm Gotteland and Kocarski as a draftsman and designed Catholic churches and buildings in Seattle. In 1962, Bridges became a registered architect.

Bridges formed his own architecture firm, Leon Bridges AIA in 1963, and his first project was designing a building for the Seattle YMCA. In 1966, he formed a partnership with colleague Edward Burke and they worked together until 1972 when Bridges relocated his firm to Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first registered African American architect in Maryland. In 1971, he served as National Director of the Amrerican Institute of Architects (AIA). Bridges co-founded the AIA/Ford Minority Scholarship fund, which has provided millions of dollars in college scholarships for needy students, in 1976, and in 1984 he was nominated as a Fellow of the College of Fellows, AIA. That same year he also earned his MBA from Loyola College of Maryland.

Bridges is he recipient of more than twenty national, regional and local awards for design excellence including the restoration of Baltimore’s Penn Station and Baltimore City College High School. Bridges is also a member of the counsel of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), for which he has served in every national office, including president.

Currently, Bridges is a partner in The Obsidian Group, an architectural, design and planning firm with offices in Baltimore, New York and North Carolina. He is also very active as a mentor in the NAACP’s ACT-SO national mentoring program.

Bridges was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 29, 2004.

See how Leon Bridges is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leon Bridges' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leon Bridges lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leon Bridges talks about his mother, Agnes Zenobia Bridges
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leon Bridges talks about his father, James Alonzo Bridges
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leon Bridges describes the impact of his parents' divorce and his father's epilepsy
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leon Bridges describes his family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leon Bridges describes his earliest memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leon Bridges describes his Aunt Ivy
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leon Bridges describes growing up in a household of women
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leon Bridges recalls his childhood illness
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leon Bridges describes growing up on Cheesbrough Lane in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leon Bridges describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leon Bridges shares his memories of elementary school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leon Bridges talks about attending church as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leon Bridges talks about attending John Adams Junior High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leon Bridges describes attending Dorsey Senior High School in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leon Bridges talks about his career aspirations as a teenager
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Leon Bridges talks about attending junior college and then UCLA
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Leon Bridges talks about serving in the Korean War
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Leon Bridges talks about being stationed in Japan while serving in the Korean War
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leon Bridges talks about attending radio shows while at Dorsey Senior High School in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leon Bridges talks about pursuing an acting career and his exposure to the gay community
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leon Bridges talks about attending the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leon Bridges remembers his first job as a draftsman in 1956 and designing homes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leon Bridges talks about working for Gotteland and Kocarski from 1961 to 1963 and starting his own architecture firm
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leon Bridges talks about founding Bridges Burke Architects and Planners in 1966
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leon Bridges talks about his decision to move to Baltimore, Maryland to establish a branch of Bridges Burke Architects and Planners
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leon Bridges talks about the reaction to being a black architect in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leon Bridges describes being an architect for the Penn Station rehabilitation project
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leon Bridges talks about being the first black architect in the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leon Bridges talks about his pride in seeing his designs built
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leon Bridges talks about co-founding the AIA/Ford Minority Scholarship Fund in 1976
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leon Bridges talks about the under-representation of African Americans in architecture
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leon Bridges talks about the Obsidian Group, a partnership of architects
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Leon Bridges talks about his wife, Eloise Bridges
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Leon Bridges talks about his involvement in the NAACP ACT-SO program
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Leon Bridges reflects upon his career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Leon Bridges talks about the importance of black history
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Leon Bridges describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Leon Bridges reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leon Bridges narrates his photographs