Architect Paul Williams with St. Jude founder Danny Thomas
 

Architect of hope

 
 

In the 1960s, segregation was a common practice in the South, but St. Jude founder Danny Thomas held firm in his belief that all children, no matter their background or race, deserved a fighting chance. He asked Paul R. Williams for "groundbreaking" help.

 
 

Paul R. Williams, a renowned African American architect, proud Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. member and close friend of Thomas, designed the original star-shaped building that supported the entertainer’s dream that no child should die in the dawn of life.

Williams was the first African American member — and later a Fellow — of the American Institute of Architects. He conceived the design of five spokes radiating off a central core — a concept that Thomas likened to the star of St. Jude.

Williams donated the design, which was brought to life when the original St. Jude building was constructed in 1962.

St. Jude campus in 1962

Paul Williams designed the original star-shaped building that served as the first building on the St. Jude campus in 1962.

 
 

The original hospital was not just a haven of hope for its 126 patients but also the first fully integrated children's hospital in the South. In addition, it was the beginning of research breakthroughs that came from the labs and corridors at a time when children diagnosed with cancer faced a virtual death sentence.

For every child treated at St. Jude in 1962 and today, thousands more have been saved worldwide through St. Jude discoveries.

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% when the hospital opened in 1962 to more than 80% today.

 
 
Dr. Rudolph Jackson, first St. Jude African-American doctor to help establish the sickle cell program at St. Jude.

Dr. Rudolph Jackson was the first St. Jude African American doctor to help establish the sickle cell program at St. Jude in 1968.

 
Dr. Larry Kun with a patient

In the 1960s, segregation was a common practice in the South, but St. Jude founder Danny Thomas held firm in his conviction that all children, no matter their background or race, deserved a fighting chance. 

 
Paul R. Williams donated the design of the original hospital when it was constructed in 1962

Paul R. Williams donated the design of the original hospital when it was constructed in 1962.

 
 

As St. Jude honors Black History Month, we have Williams to thank for laying the foundation to a successful and lifesaving hospital.