Mel Streeter

Thanks to a friend for sending me a link to this story by Kurt Streeter, about his father Mel Streeter. Read it all and the obit below, these are just snippets:

… My dad, who grew up in Riverside, California, wasn’t just the fourth black athlete to ever suit up for a Ducks basketball team — he was the first to come from outside Oregon.

Hard to imagine? Think of this. In the Eugene of the early 1950s, there were only a half-dozen or so black students on the Oregon campus.

Even though he mostly kept it to himself, that kind of isolation left its mark and its sting. He was a man who came of age just before the civil rights movement and the dawning of a new kind of racial awareness. His way was the old way: Hold inside the anger and the self-doubt caused by prejudice. Sometimes completely cast those kinds of hard feelings aside. For all the open-hearted joy my dad showed the outside world, all the success he had — he moved to Seattle after college, raised his family and became a noted architect — I came to see that his upbeat exterior masked deep pain. The existential pain of not being seen for his full humanity, of having had to fight for his dignity daily, in small moments and in large. An existential angst that he, like black folks have always done, knew how to hide from the rest of the world. …

And here is Mel Streeter’s obituary from 2006:

… Mr. Streeter was 75. His architectural firm, Streeter and Associates, designed the African American Academy, the Northwest Regional Headquarters for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Auburn City Hall.

Streeter and Associates also participated in designing Qwest Field and Safeco Field, among many other projects.

But when Mr. Streeter came to Seattle in 1955 he had to struggle just to land a job as an architect.

In an interview with The Seattle Times 10 years ago, Mr. Streeter said, “I love a challenge.” He applied to 22 firms before finding one willing to hire a young African American.

Mr. Streeter grew up in Riverside, Calif. His father was a porter and his mother a cook. A mechanical-drawing class in high school ignited his love of architecture and his determination did the rest.

Mr. Streeter was an accomplished athlete, tall and muscular. He was recruited by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, but he chose to attend the University of Oregon instead, because it offered him a chance to study architecture.

While there, he met and married Kathleen Burgess in 1954, another pioneering act, since she was white, and Oregon had lifted its ban on interracial unions only three years earlier. …

As John Lewis said when he talked at UO back in 2010 or so, “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t make a difference. People make a difference. We made America a better country.”

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One Response to Mel Streeter

  1. eugenenative says:

    I worked as an architect in Seattle in the 1980’s before returning to Portland in the 90’s. Mel Streeter’s firm Streeter/Dermanis was well respected. All the architects I knew who worked with or for Mel spoke well of him.

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