The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

city

Leatrice McKissack

Architect 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.

Accession Number

A2007.087

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/13/2007

Last Name

McKissack

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School

Fisk University

Washington Junior High School

Tennessee State University

First Name

Leatrice

Birth City, State, Country

Keytesville

HM ID

MCK11

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Reynaldo Glover

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries. Live It While You Can.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/27/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Architect Leatrice McKissack (1930 - ) won the contract for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. She was the CEO of McKissack & McKissack architectural firm.

Employment

McKissack and McKissack

Wharton Junior High School

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:420,9:770,15:1190,22:1470,27:2030,36:17138,267:22082,320:31030,439:37470,515:43827,630:45483,672:52508,767:54251,871:59729,933:80495,1138:81175,1148:83030,1154:83870,1161:90624,1230:93350,1247:96590,1285:117638,1599:118214,1609:127441,1734:153010,2025:173610,2371:188570,2618$0,0:279,11:3534,71:4650,94:18042,267:18510,272:21044,290:21728,300:31545,466:35906,520:43250,611:43700,655:44000,660:45275,683:45875,692:50872,799:52150,829:54210,849:54810,859:55110,864:58082,890:58597,896:65784,990:66139,996:71248,1085:75485,1153:78770,1247:82347,1346:91680,1455:92499,1465:92954,1471:93864,1481:94319,1487:104680,1614:104936,1619:105448,1629:115568,1759:120511,1827:121341,1839:142090,2218:142722,2229:145171,2310:152109,2386:153510,2404
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482101">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leatrice McKissack's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482102">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482103">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482104">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482105">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her mother's second marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482106">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482107">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her family's farm in Keytesville, Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482108">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482109">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack describes her stepfather</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482110">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the winters in Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482111">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Leatrice McKissack describes the smells and sounds of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482112">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Leatrice McKissack remembers walking to school in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482113">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her friends at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482114">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack recalls Marceline Colored School in Marceline, Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482115">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her early interest in science</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482116">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her schools and early aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482117">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack remembers how she met her husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482118">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack describes her husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482119">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack recalls working for Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482120">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack remembers Pearl High School in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482121">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her studies at Fisk University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482122">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack describes her experiences at Pearl High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482123">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the notable figures at Fisk University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482124">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Leatrice McKissack remembers lessons from her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482125">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack describes her interest in cooking</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482126">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack recalls teaching at Meigs Junior High School in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482127">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls teaching at Wharton Elementary and Junior High School in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482128">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her early involvement in McKissack and McKissack</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482129">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack remembers traveling with Calvin McKissack, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482130">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack remembers traveling with Calvin McKissack, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482131">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack describes the poverty she witnessed in Haiti</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482132">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the construction of the Tuskegee Army Airfield</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482133">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack remembers undergoing a series of surgeries</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482134">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her mother's heart attack</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482135">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her third operation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482136">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her mother's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482137">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls the deaths of friends and family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482138">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her early role at McKissack and McKissack</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482139">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack remembers her husband's stroke</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482140">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack recalls restoring the president's home at Tuskegee Institute</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482141">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her experiences of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482142">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack remembers suing the City of Nashville, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482143">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack remembers suing the City of Nashville, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482144">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack describes her interactions with banks</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482145">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack remembers the executives at McKissack and McKissack</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482146">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack recalls promoting a secretary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482147">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack recalls selling McKissack and McKissack's construction company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482148">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack recalls uncovering corruption in McKissack and McKissack, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482149">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack recalls uncovering corruption in McKissack and McKissack, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482150">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack recalls being hired for a project at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482151">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack talks about her daughters' careers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482152">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack reflects upon her success as a manager</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482153">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack recalls an incident with an employee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482154">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack describes her reforms at McKisssack and McKissack</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482155">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leatrice McKissack recalls working on the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482156">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leatrice McKissack recalls her favorite architectural projects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482157">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leatrice McKissack remembers collaborating with government officials</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482158">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leatrice McKissack describes the African American community in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482159">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leatrice McKissack reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482160">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Leatrice McKissack reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482161">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Leatrice McKissack talks about racial discrimination in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482162">Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Leatrice McKissack talks about her racial identity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482163">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leatrice McKissack describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482164">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leatrice McKissack describes her plans for the future of her company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482165">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leatrice McKissack narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

6$6

DATitle
Leatrice McKissack remembers traveling with Calvin McKissack, pt. 2
Leatrice McKissack remembers collaborating with government officials
Transcript
A lot of times people were throwing parties in his honor. One of my classmates at Fisk [Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee] was named Tippenhauer, in school at Fisk we called him the banana boat boy, but his parents were wealthy and the Tippenhauers were the ones that was having a fabulous party for us when we went down there, because Uncle Calvin [Calvin McKissack] knew all of them. Now, we had what you call guides, you know, and interpreters, 'cause they spoke nothing but French and you could not go out without either Savane [ph.], or Mr. Louie [ph.], those were the two guides and the people that we had that were to take care of us and took us everywhere we were together. And so, Savane is still living today and he lives in Florida, and he had spent time at, in Nashville [Tennessee] with, at the company [McKissack and McKissack], you know, at the firm with Uncle Calvin, and 'cause he was one helping them get the project, Father George [ph.] in Port-au-Prince [Haiti] was the commissioner of education, he owned a villa up in Kenscoff [Haiti], with forty-five rooms, and every weekend he would come down from Kenscoff which was about thirty miles, pick us up and take us back up into the mountains. We were so high up, that he would, we could sit out on one of his balconies and see the planes landing in Port-au-Prince. Now it was 99 degrees in Port-au-Prince, it was 45 up in Kenscoff, I mean you would go from hot to cold, but we didn't mind 'cause it was so hot in Haiti, but it was not hot in Kenscoff. And then there was another lovely place called Petion-Ville [Haiti], which was about halfway between the two and he would, we would go out to dinner and places like that, to French restaurants and it was just fabulous, we went to [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham's home, she had a villa in Port-au-Prince, and the thing that, I'll never forget the day we went to her home 'cause she served us punch, a coconut punch with Scotch, I'm allergic to coconut and I drank some of that punch and on that night we were on are way to Petion-Ville, I began to become ill and I said, "Oh God," I said, "Uncle Calvin, I am deathly ill." I said, "Can you all just let me out on the side of the road." I thought I was gonna die, but they took me back to the hotel and I stayed there the night, and the next day I was okay, but I was so sick, I said, "I'm highly allergic to coconut, bananas and pineapple and I'll tell you, you'd almost have to kill me to eat, get me to drink some coconut milk." (Laughter) Would you like a Coke [Coca-Cola] (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Now did you, did you? No.$One of the things that I have done in the past, since I've retired was that, you know, I know people all over the country so, when they would call me, like when, one morning Cheryl [HistoryMaker Cheryl McKissack Felder] called and she said, "Mom your job today is to make sure that we have breakfast with the governor of Tennessee," and I said to her, "Why do we want to have breakfast with the governor of Tennessee?" She said, "Because the governor of New York is coming to meet with the governor of Tennessee, and we need to be at his breakfast table." I said, "So what else do I have to do today, that's a done deal." One phone call, the governor at that time had put me on his economic growth board [Tennessee Board for Economic Growth]. I was on, and there is a paper right there on it, the economic growth board for the State of Tennessee, which was very interesting. Cher- I had taken Cheryl to Europe twice with me with the governor 'cause he had invited me to go, he invited a small group and so Cheryl said, "Mama, you not getting outta here without taking me." So, she went to London [England], we went to Munich [Germany], and then the last time I went she didn't go, he--I went to Stockholm [Sweden] with the governor.$$Now, now which governor is this?$$Sundquist [Don Sundquist], he was a Republican but it didn't matter to me because I mean, after he had put me on his growth board, and that's how we got to be friends and I still get Christmas cards from them every Christmas from the Governor Sundquist and of course Bredesen [Phil Bredesen] was our mayor, then he became governor and also a dear friend of mine. But, the only two women at that table that morning for breakfast was Cheryl and myself and Don Sundquist strategically put Cheryl beside of Pataki [George Pataki] and two weeks after he went back to New York, he called her and said he wanted to have dinner with her and so she was some of, "Mom, how--oh." She said, "How am I gonna be--?" I said, "You're gonna do fine honey, that's why you came to Nashville [Tennessee]. Now you go on and meet with, with Governor Pataki." So he had stood by and did everything he said he was gonna do for our company [McKissack and McKissack]. When I was there in the month of October, we went over to Albany [New York] to a meeting, I mean he, they, that's how Cheryl really got going in New York big time, was because of Pataki.