KUT Podcast: The Legacy of John Saunders Chase

Click here to listen to the KUT podcast: The  Legacy of John Saunders Chase.

Chase served as CEO of John S. Chase Architect, a firm he founded in 1952 after graduating from UT-Austin as its first African American architecture student. He also was the first African American architect to be licensed in the state of Texas and the first to be admitted to the Texas Society of Architects and the American Institute of Architects Houston chapter.

His architectural imprint can be seen globally. He was commissioned to design the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia.

Born on January 23rd, 1925 in Annapolis, Maryland, Chase earned a B.S. degree from Hampton University and in 1948 became the first African American to enroll and graduate with a Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture in 1952.

Chase co-founded the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) along with 12 other African American architects at the AIA convention in Detroit in 1971. When President Jimmy Carter appointed him in 1980, he became the first African American to serve on the United States Commission on Fine Arts. Projects designed by Chase’s firm include: the George R. Brown Convention Center, in Houston, TX; the Washington Technical Institute, Links, Inc. National Headquarters, Delta Sigma Theta National Headquarters, the Harris County (TX) Astrodome Renovation, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and Martin Luther King, Jr. School of Humanities at Texas Southern University.

Chase was elected to the AIA College of Fellows, was awarded the AIA Whitney M. Young Citation, and was the recipient of the NOMA Design for Excellence Award for four consecutive years. He received the commendation for Meritorious Service by the Houston (TX) Independent School District and the Honor Award for Architectural Excellence in School Design by the Texas Association of School Boards for the design of the Booker T. Washington High School.


On March 29, 2012, Chase passed away after a long illness. He was 87.