John S. Chase, FAIA
Professional advocacy, public service
After receiving an undergraduate degree from Hampton University, John Chase, FAIA, traveled to the University of Texas at Austin, becoming the first African American to graduate from the school’s architecture program in 1952. Unable to find work in Austin’s strongly segregated architecture firms, he accepted a teaching position at the historically black Texas Southern University in Houston and opened his own firm. He was the first African American licensed to practice architecture in Texas and accepted into the Texas Society of Architects and AIA Houston.
Business boomed for Chase in Houston, where he designed the state’s first black owned bank and nearly half the buildings on Texas Southern University’s campus. His firm would open offices in Dallas, Austin, and Washington, D.C., designing the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia and an administration building at Tuskegee University.
A founding member and later president of the National Organization of Minority Architects, Chase advanced equality in architecture through several national committees. He served as director of AIA Houston from 1973 to 1975, promoting planning solutions and engaging local architects with the city’s diverse communities. In 1980, he was named by President Carter to serve a four-year term on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, during which time he reviewed plans for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.