John Anderson Lankford was a well-respected attorney, architect, real estate broker, professor, and author. Following his time at Shaw University, Lankford received several degrees, including various Master’s degrees, a degree in law, and numerous honorary degrees. Here are a few other amazing facts about the first African-American architect in the United States.
1. Lankford was born on December 4, 1874 to former slaves Philip Anderson and Nancy Ella Johnson Lankford. He was one of eleven children.
2. After attending public schools, Lankford worked in Crystal City, Missouri, in a plate glass factory. From 1889 to 1896, he attended Lincoln Institute (now Lincoln University) in Jefferson City, Missouri. He worked as a janitor to earn money for his books. He also worked at the Plymouth Rock Pants Company in order to earn money for his clothes and at a steam laundry in order to get his laundry cleaned.
3. Lankford was invited by Booker T. Washington to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Between his time at Lincoln and Tuskegee, he worked in a blacksmith shop in St. Louis. To pay his board at Tuskegee, Lankford worked as an amateur photographer and in a foundry and steam-fitting department.
John Anderson Lankford Auditorium
4. Lankford received a bachelor of science degree from Shaw University in 1898, where he later taught from 1900 to 1902. He also earned master of science degrees from Morris Brown College and Wilberforce University.
5. Lankford arrived in Washington, D.C., in July 1902 with a commission to design and supervise the construction of a new hall for the Grand United Order of the True Reformers. True Reformers Hall was a stately, five-story brick building notable for its arched, 18-foot windows and ornamental frieze. The building was considered remarkable because it was financed, designed, and built entirely by African-Americans, “the result of a collaboration between a black patron, architect, and contractor.”
6. Lankford also designed Arnett Hall, Wilberforce University; Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia; St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in Norfolk, Virginia, and historical landmark, Chapelle Administration Building at Allen University, along others.
7. He died on July 2, 1946 in Washington, D.C. Lankford is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.