|Birth: ||Jun. 12, 1920|
|Death: ||Dec. 27, 2011|
Original Tuskegee Airman & pioneering African-American Architect.
Arthur G. Saunders, 91, of Cleveland, OH, died Tuesday, December 27, 2011, at the VA Hospice in Cleveland.
He is survived by his wife, Iris Richards-Saunders; daughter, Susan Saunders McKenzie; stepson, Jeremy Richards; stepdaughter, Kate Quintana; four grandchildren and one great-grand-child.
The Memorial Service will be February 4, 2012, at University Circle United Methodist Church, 1919 East 107 St., Cleveland, OH.
Additional information regarding the memorial service will be announced.
At age 90, Saunders still walked a few blocks daily along Superior Ave. from his apartment to his office. He died Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at the Stokes VA Medical Center, at 91.
In 2007, he told The Plain Dealer about his military career and could have been talking about his civilian one, too: "The hardest part was overcoming the prejudice. There was a great effort to make it difficult for us by creating unnecessary problems, with the intent of making us fail."
The slim six-footer said he was the first African-American architect with the state of Ohio as a client. He also designed the first home for an African-American family in Shaker Heights, starting the suburb toward national leadership in voluntary integration. He created more than 20 Cleveland churches, including Mt. Pleasant Church of Christ, and many multi-unit complexes, including Rockefeller Park Towers and the Eliza Bryant Home.
At Central State College, Saunders designed the music school, a cafeteria, a men's dormitory and the library. In Africa, he opened an office in Nigeria, reviewed planning programs for eight communities there, and designed prototype homes for government workers in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
He and other original Tuskegee Airmen received Congressional Medals of Honor in 2007 and invitations to President Obama's inauguration in 2009.
"Patience pays off," he commented. "Finally, America is respecting what we attempted to do in World War II."
In 1964, the Cleveland Press called Saunders "imaginative and ingenious," partly for including recycled materials in a new building.
Dominic Ozanne of Ozanne Construction, whose father, Leroy, built many of Saunders' designs, said Wednesday, "Arthur was a very capable architect and a very classy, polite gentleman, very dignified and professional."
Saunders restored historic buildings but designed new ones in avant-garde styles. He gave Mt. Sinai Baptist pre-cast concrete, a parabolic arch and a bell tower. He also designed St. Matthew United Methodist and the Hough branch of the Cleveland Public Library.
"All our work is modern--nothing traditionalized or conventionalized," he said in 1964. "It is the only possible means of honest expression, because it reflects the age in which we live and the facilities and tools available."
Saunders was born in Kansas City, Mo., and went to a two-room elementary schoolhouse with Charlie Parker, future jazz great. He later lived in Lincoln, Kansas, with a stepfather who'd been a buffalo soldier--a member of an African-American cavalry regiment.
Saunders earned a bachelor of science degree at Kansas State University and a pilot's license. He studied art and industrial technology at Kansas' Pittsburgh State University. He taught industrial technology for two years in Tulsa, Okla.
He joined the Army Air Corps, went to Officers Candidates School at Yale University, studied aircraft maintenance engineering and became a first lieutenant. He went to Tuskegee, Ala., in 1941, for an experiment in creating an all-black flight unit.
According an Air Force website, www. af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123016224, the Tuskegee hopefuls "trained in overcrowded classrooms and airstrips, and suffered from the racist attitude of some military officials. The Tuskegee Airmen suffered many hardships, but they proved themselves to be world class."
Saunders went on to be a staff officer on the ground in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and South Carolina. While at Lockbourne Air Force Base, later Rickenbacker, outside Columbus, he came to consider Ohio tolerant and hoped to return someday.
After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in architecture at Kansas State. In 1951, he joined Levit and Spieth in Cleveland as a junior draftsman. Five years later, he opened Arthur Saunders and Associates at E. Fourth St. and Prospect Ave. He later shared space and projects with the Ralph Tyler Cos. on Superior.
Saunders was one of the early black residents of the Ludlow neighborhood, which straddles Shaker and Cleveland. He later spent decades at Reserve Square downtown. He belonged to the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
He served on Cleveland's Board of Building Standards and spoke widely about the airmen and other issues. He keynoted Cleveland's Flag Day celebration in 2007. He addressed the Ohio House last June. He joined a yearly panel in 2010 at Case Western Reserve University on "Life After 90."
He told the panel that he did everything in moderation except help others: "My life has been an effort to render service."
Created by: Andie Parrish
Record added: Jan 28, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 84139899
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