Nathaniel Colley Offices

Built in 1967, this office building holds a great deal of Black history in Sacramento, California.

It was home to the offices of Nathaniel Colley, a the first licensed Black attorney in the city, a man who worked tirelessly for desegregation of public housing in Sacramento.

Colley began practicing law in 1940, and in addition to taking on private clients, was a champion for civil rights causes. In 1960, Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown appointed Colley to California’s State Board of Education, making him the first African American to serve. Between 1961 and 1962, he served on President John F. Kennedy’s Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces.

“In the landmark case Ming v. Horgan, Colley persuaded the United States Supreme Court that those receiving federal funds could not engage in discrimination,” says the Sacramento County Office of Education website. “He fought for the repeal of California Proposition 14 (ultimately leading to the creation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act), and also led efforts against housing and education discrimination in California. A member of the National Bar Association’s Hall of Fame, the attorney taught part-time for 17 years at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.”

But that’s not the only slice of history held here. This mid-century modern building was designed by James C. Dodd, the first licensed Black architect in Sacramento. Dodd worked as an architect here for four decades.

Dodd, who was an Army lieutenant in World War II, used his GI Bill to study architecture at UC Berkeley, according to a news story that ran on ABC10 earlier this month. His first commission was the Shiloh Baptist Church in Sacramento, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“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,” his son, James Dodd Jr., told ABC10. 

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