Architect Phil Freelon, who died this week after a career that included design work essential to conveying the African American story in the U.S., brought his talents to Winston-Salem with the design of an addition to the F.L. Atkins Building at Winston-Salem State University.
Freelon, 66, died Tuesday in Durham following a battle of several years with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
A Philadelphia native, he worked for architectural firms in Texas and North Carolina. He worked on designs for such projects as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture in Charlotte.
The renovated Atkins building is home to the WSSU’s School of Health Sciences, said Jay Davis, a WSSU spokesman. The project was completed in 2002.
Tim McMullen, WSSU’s associate vice chancellor for facilities management, said that the Atkins project added to the campus.
“It was a successful addition and provides needed lab and classroom space for the School of Health Sciences,” McMullen said in a statement. “With its metal façade, it added a fresh exterior to the original building.”
McMullen said he met Freelon in 1979 when McMullen became a licensed architect. McMullen said he competed with Freelon on several projects as an architect in Charlotte. “I always admired his ability to reach well beyond the boundaries of North Carolina,” McMullen said of Freelon.
In 2010, when the civil rights museum opened in Greensboro, Freelon said in an email to The News and Observer in Raleigh that it’s important to remember history, even when it’s painful.
“The story of the African American is the quintessential American story,” Freelon wrote. “Rising up from difficult circumstances, persevering against all odds, resiliency, thriving in the melting pot that is America, pursuing the ‘American Dream.’”