By Douglas Sydnor
During these challenging times, Americans desperately want sound leadership. Rushia Glen Fellows, AIA, was an African-American architect, educator, and civic leader in Arizona who led with knowledge, diplomacy, and exhibited grace under pressure.
Fellows was born in Arkansas, and his family moved to Phoenix in 1925. Fellows grew up with six siblings and attended segregated schools starting with Booker T. Washington Grammar School, where he received the “Medalist” honor awarded by the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. He became a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop No. 7 while attending George Washington Carver High School. Fellows entered the U.S. Army at age 17, where he finished high school under the V-12 program.
After serving in World War II, Fellows enrolled at Phoenix College and co-founded an NAACP Youth Council, serving as the vice-president in 1947. In ROTC, Fellows became a U.S. Army Reserve Second Lieutenant and was later promoted to First Lieutenant. He was selected as one of four class speakers for the 1948 Phoenix College commencement.
While at Phoenix College, Fellows entered a national “Dream Home” design competition sponsored by the American Builders Association and AIA. Fellows received second prize for his entry, which he found “astonishing.” This prize provided him a two-year scholarship to the engineering college at Harvard University, which he attended in 1949.
Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
Fellows married Alice Tease in 1950, and they had two sons, Darvis and Daryl. He attended Arizona State College (now Arizona State University), where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in architecture in 1951. He was the first African-American graduate in the program.
His first job was as a draftsman for the architect Frank R. Fazio in the early 1950s. Fellows later worked as a designing draftsman for Floyd Le Raine Pike in the early 1960s.
Fellows was employed by the Del Webb Corporation from 1963 to 1972, working in the Community Development Division architectural department and on the project in Sun City, California. He also helped teach an ASU summer course, “Construction, Materials, and Technique.” While at Del Webb, he became the first African-American registered architect in Arizona in 1965.
South Mountain Community Center
Fellows subsequently formed his own Phoenix-based architectural practice and completed municipal, community, and religious projects from 1973 into the 1980s. During his career, Fellows completed more than 50 buildings during 21 years of professional practice.
An early project was the Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church at 901 West Buckeye Road in Phoenix in 1973. Fellows was a church member there for 26 years and held many leadership roles. The building is a modest, simple structure with slump block walls and a pitched roof with gable ends. The walls have vertical windows and some projected masonry units that visually modulate the long walls.
Another project is the South Mountain Community Center in Phoenix’s El Reposo Park at 212 East Alta Vista Road, which was completed in 1976 for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. The structure utilized a T-shaped floor plan and slump masonry units as the walls. Vertical windows admit daylight and are framed with precast architectural concrete units. The structure is capped with an architectural precast concrete fascia with a sculptural detail.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Sept/Oct 2020 issue, Vol. 9, No. 5.