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James Dodd: Sacramento's first Black architect | ABC10 Originals

James Dodd is believed to be Sacramento's first Black architect, and he made an impact in mid-century architecture that can be seen all over Northern California.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — James Dodd is believed to be Sacramento's first Black architect and he made an impact on mid-century architecture that can be seen all over Northern California. 

"I never got the sense that he demanded respect but that he earned it so we would go to some places where during construction he's the only Black person on site," said James Dodd Jr., Dodd's son. 

Dodd was born in Texas and he served as an Army lieutenant in World War II. 

He used his GI Bill to study architecture at UC Berkeley, and after working as a draftsman for the state and a local firm, he opened his own practice called James C. Dodd and Associates in Sacramento. It was open for nearly 40 years. The office is on X and Broadway. His intricate brick pattern design is on the side of the building. 

Dodd's architectural work can be seen throughout Sacramento.

His first major architectural commission was the Shiloh Baptist Church on 9th Avenue. It's listed as a landmark with the California Register of Historical Resources and the National Register of Historic Places.

Another project he worked on was Sacramento High School.

"All this that says St. Hope all of this brown brick my grandfather also designed that to help this community to keep this school here because they were trying to tear down Sac High," said Toni McCartey, James Dodd's granddaughter. 

Dodd also worked on developing low income housing projects throughout Northern California. 

In addition to his work in architecture, Dodd was involved in politics and education. Governor Ronald Reagan appointed him to the board of governors for California Community Colleges. Dodd also ran for senator but lost. 

Dodd's son said some people didn't know about his accomplishments until he passed away because he was so humble.

"I think one of the differences is that I knew him as a father and some of these accolades are kind of new or I didn't really understand when I was younger as I do now," Dodd, Jr. said. 

Some of Dodd's accomplishments have since been demolished including the Herold wing addition of the Crocker Museum and the Sacramento Convention Center. 

However Dodd's personal home which he designed is designated as one of the city's historical sites. 

The family unfortunately lost the home in a foreclosure. 

"My mom lost it in the housing market in 2008 due to predatory lending practices," McCartey said. "I would love to have this house back eventually but I'm 55. I don't know how much longer I can wait. I keep looking to see if someone wants to sell it or rent it because I would love to get back into this house."