Architect Paul R. Williams — A Black man AND a Republican?
When I first read architect Paul R. Williams’ FBI file I was confounded by his political affiliation as a “Republican.” I assumed he was a Democrat since Blacks historically vote as Democrats. I could not imagine Blacks voting Republican…ever. This is a perception I had not questioned until now. I thank Williams’ spirit for indirectly offering me an interesting and much needed history lesson.
In 1956, when the FBI was looking into Williams’ background, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the process of winning his second presidential term. A combination of reasons caused a shift among Black voters to become Republicans. Namely, that Eisenhower was advancing equal rights through his appointment of pro civil rights judges to the Supreme Court, keeping the military desegregated, fighting against employment discrimination, along with other reforms. Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson never had a chance and lost to Eisenhower in the 1952 and 1956 elections.
Before seeing Williams’ FBI file, I wondered if there would be one in the first place. I assumed it was a racist action on the part of the FBI, and the agency was targeting Williams. However, it turns out the FBI was performing due diligence. The inquiry came from J. William Barba, Assistant to the Special Counsel to the President. As stated in the file, Williams was under consideration for an appointment to the Committee for Housing for the Aging. The FBI actions were simply a proper background check.
Williams had a long history serving on numerous commissions and committees. His interest with housing for the aging was one of the many examples of his public-mindedness for the greater good and another reflection of his integrity and character.
While this is a light brush with the FBI’s check into Williams background, these documents offer opportunities to pursue a variety of meaningful, enriching directions…beyond why the FBI agent chose to list Williams’ projects for Corrine Griffith, Grace Moore and Zasu Pitts: Three film actresses.
As noted in one of the FBI documents below, Williams, was one of “100 negroes” who received a “certificate of merit” for “distinguished achievements,” during the New York World’s Fair in 1940. The group of 100 recipients from that era could take the form of an encyclopedia today.
Here is the FBI file of Paul R. Williams…a Black Republican.