On February 23, 1857, 13 architects met in Richard Upjohn’s office to form what would become the American Institute of Architects. The group sought to create an architecture organization that would “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members” and “elevate the standing of the profession.” AIA National sought “progressive men who are capable of influencing public opinion in their communities, and who are willing to take an active interest in organization affairs.” AIA Chapters were formed throughout the United States as the field of architecture grew.
In 1921, Frank P. Gates of Clarksdale, Mississippi, corresponded with a friend and colleague, W.T. Trueblood of St. Louis, Missouri, to begin the effort to organize an AIA chapter in what was then the “Territory of Mississippi.” The first problem was to convince enough Mississippi architects to join the AIA. A minimum of five members was needed to be able to request the formation of a new chapter. Prior to the formation of the Mississippi chapter, architects were associate members of the Louisiana chapter and attended meetings in New Orleans.
Throughout the 20s and struggling to gather enough architects to form a chapter, N.W. Overstreet continued the pursuit of forming AIA Mississippi. Records show Overstreet urging his colleagues: “I am sure such an organization will be beneficial to every man practicing architecture in its motive to promote a higher standard for the architectural profession.” Overstreet distributed the necessary paperwork for a group of state architects to register with AIA National facilitating AIA Mississippi’s official charter in November 1929.
The first chapter meeting was held on January 8, 1930, at which time board of directors–also the founding members– were elected and instated. They included:
- N.W. Overstreet (Jackson) | President
- Emmett Hull (Jackson) | First Vice President
- Vinson B. Smith, Jr. (Gulfport) | Secretary Treasurer
- Frank P. Gates | Executive Committee
- D.B. Shourds (Gulfport) | Executive Committee
- Claude Lindsley (Jackson) | Executive Committee
Chapter members agreed to meet often to “discuss problems confronting architects and their relationship with the public to create more interest in an art that can be applied to masonry and steel buildings that will outlive a civilization, and which will express to future civilization the culture and character of the people who built.”
Membership grew slowly through the Depression but expanded rapidly after WW2. From 1940 to 1944, membership hovered around 15. In 1945, membership stood at 25 expanding rapidly to 38 in 1947, and 51 in 1950.