BlackPast.org Facebook BlackPast.org Twitter

Donate to BlackPast.org BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

NOTE: BlackPast.org will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

5 + 12 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Shop Amazon and help BlackPast.org

Blackpast.org in the Classroom

Bankhead, Lester Oliver (1912-1997)

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester Oliver Bankhead was among a handful of pioneering black architects in Los Angeles in the 1950s.  Although he faced the racial prejudice of his time, he was able to obtain work from Hollywood celebrities, such as actor Lorne Greene of the television series Bonanza; Kelly Lang, a well-known Los Angeles, California news anchor; and H.B. Barnum, noted music producer and arranger for Frank Sinatra and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

Lester Bankhead, the eldest of six children, was born on April 20, 1912, in Union, South Carolina.  His parents were John Hayes Bankhead and Pearl Eugenia Eskew.  Bankhead had hoped to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but the lack of financial support forced him to seek training elsewhere.  He wrote to Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, and was later enrolled in 1937.  Bankhead stated that he graduated from Voorhees with a degree in agriculture and a certificate in carpentry in 1941.  

After graduating from college, Bankhead was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942.  Upon completion of basic training his unit was ordered to assist in the liberation of North Africa.  After being discharged from the Army, Bankhead moved Los Angeles and settled within the Central Avenue community.  He attended the Los Angeles City College, Otis Art Institute, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.  Bankhead worked various jobs and eventually began his own practice in the 1950s.

Although Bankhead designed homes his emphasis as an architect was church design.  Bankhead’s most notable buildings include Chapel of Faith Baptist Church, Greater Life Missionary Church, and New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church.  Voorhees College honored Bankhead as one of “100 distinguished Alumni” at the Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in 1988. Bankhead died in Los Angeles in 1997.

Sources:
Interview with Lester Bankhead by Wesley Henderson, Los Angeles, California, 1992, University of California at Los Angeles Oral History Program; Wendel Eckford, “Lester O. Bankhead,” in African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945, Dreck Spurlock Wilson, Editor (New York, 2004).

Contributor:

Los Angeles City College

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2017 - BlackPast.org v3.0 NDCHost - California | blackpast@blackpast.org | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement

BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.