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R. A. Kennard; Prominent Black Architect

March 29, 1995|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert A. Kennard, an architect and founder of the oldest African American architecture firm in Los Angeles, has died. He was 74.

Kennard, who established his own firm, later known as Kennard Design Group, in 1957, died Friday in Los Angeles of lymphoma.

His firm has designed more than 700 projects in Southern California, including parking structures No. 3 and 4 at Los Angeles International Airport, Carson City Hall and Civic Center, and a new trauma center for Los Angeles County's Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center and the 77th Street regional police facility for the city of Los Angeles.

Kennard's firm recently received awards from the American Institute of Architects and California Preservation Foundation for its work as associate architect in the redesign and expansion of Los Angeles' Central Library.

Born in Los Angeles, Kennard once recalled for The Times an anecdote from his childhood:

"I can remember when I was 7 years old and living in Monrovia (which had a segregated school district), that each day my mother would pack my lunch box and send me off to Wildrose School close to where we lived. And each day the school, which was segregated, would turn me away.

"Years later," he related, "I asked my mother why she subjected me to such a painful ritual. She told me I might as well learn early how the world really was and how important it was to hang in there."

Eventually, his parents did persuade the Monrovia school district to permit him to attend non-minority schools.

Kennard, who served as a lieutenant in the Army in World War II and the Korean War, attended Pasadena City College. Long after he earned his architectural degree at USC, he helped other young minority students strive for a good education and success, just as his role models had helped him.

"I have a special warm spot for Curtis Chambers, an independent Pasadena architect who reminded me a great deal of Gary Cooper," Kennard told The Times. "He hired me right out of junior college when job opportunities for blacks were scarce in a community that was markedly racist. He also encouraged me to study architecture."

In recognition of Kennard's success, he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1986. Five years later, the organization gave him its Whitney M. Young Jr. Citation, which recognizes architects who have made contributions to the nation's social issues.

He was recognized as the 1991 alumnus of the year by the USC School of Architecture. The California Council of the AIA honored him in 1993 with its distinguished service citation for lifetime achievement.

Kennard was a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects, which has also honored him, and a board member of the national and state AIA groups. Former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley appointed Kennard to the Design Advisory Panel of the city's Cultural Affairs Commission.

Survivors include his wife, Helen, and three children, Gail Kennard Madyun of Altadena, Lydia Kennard Reeves of Pasadena and William Earl Kennard of Washington, five grandchildren and three sisters.

Memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Hills, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Memorial donations supporting scholarships for minority architecture students may be sent to the Robert A. Kennard Memorial Scholarship Fund, USC School of Architecture, Watt Hall Suite 204, Los Angeles, Calif. 90088-0291.

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