JOHN SAUNDERS CHASE JR. FAIA (1925-2012)
When Chase went to college in the 1940s, only 10% of the population had undergraduate degrees, and very few of those were people of color. Chase enrolled in Hampton University and went on to become the first Black graduate from the University of Texas. In 1952, Chase was the first Black architect in Texas to get an architectural license. Because no firms would hire him, to fulfill a required apprenticeship, Chase appealed to the State of Texas to take his licensing exam without the required apprenticeship. He took it and passed. Soon after, he designed a sleek Modernist building at 1191 Navasota Street in East Austin for the offices of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas. About 70 years later the building was acquired by the University of Texas at Austin.
Chase took work where he could find it, which in the beginning meant Black clientele. He designed Riverside National Bank in Texas, and he designed several buildings for Texas Southern University. As his career continued to grow, Chase opened offices in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Washington DC.
Throughout his life Chase was an advocate for the arts, encouraging other people of color to become architects, and in 1971 he became one of the 12 co-founders of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), architects who met at the 1971 Detroit AIA Conference. Chase was the first Black member of the Texas Society of Architects and the Houston AIA. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed him as the first Black member of the US Commission of Fine Arts.
The Houston Public Library launched two Chase exhibitions in 2018, highlighting his career and those he inspired. In November 2020, a book by David Heymann and Stephen Fox was published about his own house. Chase won the AIA Whitney M. Young Citation, and was the recipient of the NOMA Design for Excellence Award for four consecutive years. Chase and his wife, Drucie, raised three children: John, Anthony, and Saundria. Adapted from an article by Max Eternity. Research by Catherine Westergaard Cramer.
1953 - The Milton and Currie Curtis House, 2316 Harlem Street, Houston TX. Sold in 1987 to Hortense Davis. Sold in 2017 to Harris County. Sold in 2017 to South by Northwest LTD. Sold in 2020 to Vanessa and David Rodriquez.
1959 - The John and Drucie Chase House, 3512 Oakdale Street, Houston TX. He added a second story around 1968. Deeded to Drucie Chase, who died in 2021. Sold in 2021 to Nikki Payne and Monique Sparks.
1963 - The Irene Thompson House, 1906 Maple Avenue, Austin TX. She was the wife of one of Chase's friends at the University of Texas, built for her after her husband died. Still in the Thompson family as of 2021.
1966 - The Phillips House, 2310 East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Austin TX. Includes an elevator. Sold in 2009 to James Moore and Penny Jo Pehl.
Sources include: Max Eternity.