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Leon Bibb reports | The Queen and the Architect: Perspectives on a shared generation

Robert Madison was an aspiring African American architect, studying in London, when a young Elizabeth was crowned Queen.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — He wrote of kings and queens and their monarchies.  

Were England's William Shakespeare — poet, playwright, — still alive, surely he would have penned of Elizabeth II.  

Shakespeare is hailed in the British garden of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens where the flag of Great Britain is at half-staff in memory of Queen Elizabeth.  

For 70 years, she has held much of the world's interest.  

Those old enough will remember the beginnings of her reign as a British monarch.

It was June of 1953 when a young Elizabeth, upon the death of her father, the king, assumed the throne. Cleveland's Robert Madison was traveling through England at the time of the coronation of the 26-year-old Elizabeth.  

Most of the world watched from afar. Robert Madison watched from London.

Credit: The Madison Family
Robert Madison opened the very first Black-owned architect firm in the Midwest. He broke down many walls in his life, including become the first black to graduate from Case Western's School of Architecture.

"It was an incredible adventure to see an entire city, all the streets, all the lights and traffic signals. All were decorated for the ascension of the Queen," said Madison.

Although he was not a supporter of monarchies, he was witness to a history.   At age 29, Madison, an American architect who studied abroad, was bound for his hometown of Cleveland.  

In London during Queen Elizabeth's crowning, Madison watched the event on live television.  

It was before satellite TV, so America had to wait for hours to see film of a monarch's coronation. Madison did not celebrate, but did observe London, its pageantry, and festivities. Seventy years later at age 99, the mental images are still with him. 

 "She was the personification, I think, of educated culture and style… and law.  I have every admiration for that Queen," Madison shared. 

Credit: Mike Leonard
Robert Madison shares with Leon Bibb his memories of England as a young Queen Elizabeth began her reign.

Nearing his own century mark, World War II veteran and retired architect Madison reflects on how he and Queen Elizabeth were of different worlds but were of the same generation.

Both children of the Depression. Both up-close witnesses of a World War.  

 Architects; both in that they were building long lives and legacies.

 As Robert Madison watches Britain remember Elizabeth, he reflects on 1953 when he and a new queen – though she had no knowledge of him – did share the same time and space. 

Robert Madison witnessed the beginnings what would be 70 years of a monarch's reign. It was a spring day when he was young.   

And so was the Queen.    

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