Ben McAdoo earned widespread acclaim during his life, but today his legacy remains mostly unsung. A pioneering architect and prominent Seattle civil rights leader who held positions such as being president of NAACP and producing weekly radio broadcasts on local social issues, his name remains amongst many today who hold him in high regard.
His early commissions, such as community churches and building renovations, were relatively modest in scale; however, his residential work – combining modernist concepts with regional aesthetics – soon won him wide public recognition.
Early Life and Education
Enid McADOO IS ONLY SIXTEEN, but her childhood memories in a home designed by her father on Bothell’s west hill have already become an intricate web. Sleepovers with friends, an expansive backyard pasture that seemed suitable for horses, and an unstable sump pump are among many that stand out for Enid.
Ben McAdoo played an essential role in America’s civil rights movement during his lifetime and combined social and architectural design seamlessly. He served as president of the Seattle chapter of NAACP and hosted a weekly radio program while his civic projects, such as University of Washington Ethnic Cultural Center and Southcenter King County Central Blood Bank reflected this same dedication to new architectural forms.
McAdoo was the first African-American architect in Washington state to operate as a professional architect and pursue his architectural practice full time. He designed numerous single-family homes and community churches which earned local acclaim.
His architectural designs and activism would go on to address racial inequality issues within Seattle through architecture, political engagement and journalism for The Seattle Times. He published numerous articles covering topics like policing, educational segregation and housing discrimination through redlining.
In 2014, he joined Tom Coughlin’s staff with the Giants as offensive coordinator and oversaw fourth-year pro Jermichael Finley becoming their first tight end to record two seasons with 55 or more receptions in each campaign. Furthermore, he directed an offense that finished 10th and eighth overall in total yards in both 2014 and 2015.
Achievement and Honors
McAdoo was active both as an architect and civil rights activist. He organized protests, educational lectures, and community meetings aimed at reforming Seattle’s police force, unions, schools and press.
McAdoo became the first Black architect licensed in Washington state and his designs featured early modernist low-cost modular housing solutions that challenged institutional racism that pervaded mid-century life, earning him widespread praise from the local press.
In 2004, he joined the New Orleans Saints as quality control coach under head coach Jim Haslett. Over time, he advanced to offensive quality control coach before being promoted as quarterbacks coach during 2005. Following this experience he went on to coach for both New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars before rejoining his former club as offensive coordinator in 2014.
As his architectural reputation increased, McAdoo became more engaged in civic life. He addressed racial inequities through public lectures, ran for office unsuccessfully (though unsuccessfully), and organized protests. McAdoo’s architecture seemed to serve as vessels to help uplift people while his rising fame put him into contact with public figures that could promote progress for society as whole.
In 1966, Miles established the Central Contractors Association – an organization for Black architects, builders and craftsmen that sought to upgrade the image of local construction industry as well as expand employment opportunities within Seattle’s black community. He served in this capacity until his death. Miles presented his research at architecture-minded forums like Docomomo US/WEWA public meetings as well as working closely with Capitol Hill Historical Society and Seattle firm Studio TJP on survey of Black historic sites within Seattle.
McAdoo earns a substantial income working for professional basketball teams. His primary source of revenue comes from fees charged from these clubs; in addition, he has amassed a considerable fortune through endorsement agreements.
He has designed several churches, family homes (including his own), and commercial buildings that showcase both modernism and regionalism. Some notable clients of his are: University of Washington; King County Central Blood Bank; Seattle First National Bank and City of Seattle.
In 2014, he was hired as offensive coordinator of the New York Giants by Tom Coughlin. Additionally, he coached for other professional football teams such as New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers; additionally he is also an accomplished saxophonist.