by James D. Randall and Anna Evans Gilmer

John C. Norman, Architect

Located in the K of P Building for over forty-five years was the architectural office of the first Black licensed architect and structural engineer in West Virginia, Mr. John C. Norman.

Mr. Norman was born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, October 23, 1892. His early childhood was spent in Oxford, North Carolina. When he was quite young, his mother and father died. In spite of this loss, he was determined to “be somebody,” and on his own, attended the Mary Potter School in North Carolina where the esteemed Miss Lucy Laney was principal. She played an important part in his life by emphasizing moral values along with perfection in skills. He also attended the Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

In the First World War, Mr. Norman served his country as First Lieutenant and was honorably discharged. In 1918, he came to Charleston, West Virginia and obtained license to practice architecture and structural engineering. He was associated with Mr. Irving Bowman, Mr. Glen C. Hancock, and Mr. Walter F. Martens, Charleston architects. 

At one time, Mr. Norman was a member of the faculty at West Virginia State College, and it was then that he designed the Faculty Homes adjoining the campus. He particularly enjoyed designing the addition to Garnet High School because it would house the Building Trades, his particular interest. Rows of houses in the 900 block of Central Avenue, and in the 300 block of Park Avenue, he designed. Throughout Charleston and the state, his well-built structures stand as a monument of his dedicated life.

In 1923 he became engaged to Miss Ruth L. Stephenson, a teacher at Garnet High School. In 1924 they were married and moved into the new home which he designed. This for a young man was an unusual accomplishment.

His pride and joy was his son, John. Proud moments he experienced when he attended his graduation with honor from Harvard College and from Harvard Medical School. His son’s continual achievements brought him joy: Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard, ten years as Director of the Cardiovascular Surgical Research Laboratories at the Texas Heart Institute with Dr. Denton Cooley. Presently he is Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia.

Mr. Norman would be proud of the honors bestowed upon his wife and his son. In 1971, The Charleston Gazette cited his son, Dr. John C. Norman as the West Virignian of the Year, and in 1975, Mrs. Norman, his wife as the West Virginia Mother of the Year.

Mr. Norman died July 11, 1967. His family and friends will cherish his memory and remember him as a Christian gentleman, a devoted husband and father, and a dedicated architect and structural engineer.