Many remember legacy of Durham’s Phil Freelon

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Saturday, many filled the Durham County Human Services building to honor renowned architect Phil Freelon.

The building is one of many designed by Freelon throughout the Triangle.

Freelon died at the age of 66 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

“In addition to being a first-class architect, business leader, teacher, mentor and trailblazer, he also somehow, in all of that, found time to be a loving and attentive father,” Freelon’s son, Deen Freelon said during the memorial service.

CBS 17 talked with Freelon in 2017, a year after he was diagnosed with the disease.

“It’s a challenge, there’s no question about it,” Freelon said.

Locally, Freelon’s work could also be seen at sites including the Durham Bulls athletic park and Raleigh-Durham International Airport’s parking structure.

He’s also credited with designing cultural sites in other cities, including San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston and Washington D.C., with the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

“This is a unique place. It’s distinctive by intention,” Freelon said of the museum.

Eric Woodard remembers Freelon visiting him while at North Carolina State’s College of Design.

“His buildings are amazing, but they are approachable,” Woodard said. “It’s a reflection of the person.”

Woodard said Freelon, an alumnus of the school, is an inspiration to him.

“Architecture, especially as an African-American, that wasn’t really on my radar,” he said. “Just the impression that he’s left for who he is, just setting an example of, ‘Oh, I can do that too’.”

For Rob Douglas, he has fond memories of Freelon.

“He never met any strangers, and was very warm and welcoming every time you met him,” Douglas said.

Douglas believes Freelon’s work will forever impact the Triangle.

“He’s going to touch people for a long, long time,” Douglas said.

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