Walter Blackburn

Walter Blackburn
(February 21, 1938 – August 9, 2000)

Walter Blackburn inherited his father’s passion to make the world, and Indianapolis specifically, a better place. While his father, Cleo Blackburn, did it by building Flanner House into one of the Midwest’s greatest social service organizations of the 1940s and 1950s, Walter Blackburn did it by designing buildings.

Courtesy of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Blackburn grew up in Indianapolis and attended Purdue University where he studied engineering. He later transferred to Howard University’s School of Architecture, graduating in 1963. He returned to Indianapolis, working for other firms at first before opening his own firm, Blackburn Architects, in 1981, with his wife Alpha as his partner.

Blackburn was a gifted architect and quickly gained national prominence for his projects. His designs include the Indianapolis Artsgarden, the Hoosier Dome, Grace Apostolic Church, the College Avenue Library Branch, Purdue’s Black Cultural Center, and the Malcolm X Institute at Wabash College. But his greatest commission came late in his life – designing the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Blackburn was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a great honor bestowed upon only about 1% of all architects. He also received the Edward Pierre Award from the Indiana chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1998. Both of his alma maters presented Blackburn with honors, including an honorary doctorate from Purdue University’s School of Engineering and Technology and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Howard University.

In his memory, the Walter Blackburn Scholarship Fund was established in 2004 to support under-served youth.

Location: Section 88, Lot 3; GPS (39.8189763, -86.1766079)