He was born in Pine Bluff in 1921 but the family moved to Little Rock, then on to El Dorado, where he grew up. His two older sisters died in childhood so, as an only child, he helped in the family restaurant. As a child, he especially loved doing two things: drawing and building. By his own account, he "drew on everything." He would build underground forts and tree houses; one tree house had roll-up screens and doors -- even a working brick fireplace. After he saw a film about the Johnson Wax Building located in Racine, Wis., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, he saw a way to combine his two loves.
In 1938, he enrolled in the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and took architecture classes in the engineering department. During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became an aviator, attaining the rank of lieutenant, and flew reconnaissance missions in the Pacific. While on leave in San Francisco in 1943 he married Mary Elizabeth "Gus" Knox of Hot Springs. After the war, the couple took up residence in Little Rock, where he was employed as a draftsman for an architectural engineering firm. Because of his obvious talent, he was encouraged to return to UA in 1946, and enroll in the new architecture program. Using the GI Bill, he obtained a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1950. He received a master of architecture degree from Rice Institute (now University) in Houston in 1951. While at Rice, he attended an American Institute of Architects (AIA) conference, where he was able to meet -- and begin a long association with -- his childhood idol, Frank Lloyd Wright.
He taught at the University of Oklahoma for two years before returning to the University of Arkansas, where in 1966 he became the first chair of the architecture department and, in 1974, the first dean of the new School of Architecture. In 1984, he was awarded the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Distinguished Professor Award. Although he employed Wright's principles of organic architecture, his building designs were very much his own. Members of the AIA placed his Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs fourth on its list of favorite buildings of the 20th century. He received many awards for his use of wood and glass in innovative vertical applications. He received four honorary doctorates and died in 2004 at age 83. In 2009, the University of Arkansas School of Architecture was named in his honor.
Who was this Arkansan, who was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century?