We note with sorrow the passing of urban planning pioneer and dedicated public servant, Charles Claybourne Allen, FAICP, on January 20, 2017. He was 81 years old.
Over his 59-year career, Allen showed his commitment not only to the planning profession and APA but also to the communities he served and the social justice and diversity causes he advocated.
Allen became the first African American to earn a Master of Science degree in Urban Planning, which he received from Columbia University School of Architecture in 1963. He later became the first African American to direct the planning department of a major U.S. city, serving as director of planning and development in Gary, Indiana. During his tenure in Gary, Allen developed the prototype for the Community Development Block Grant, which is currently used by many cities across the country.
Allen started his career at Clarke & Rapuano working on university development plans. His nearly six-decade career took him to North Carolina, where he was general manager of Soul City, a model city development corporation that brought infrastructure, housing, and development to one of the poorest counties in the country; vice president at Wendell Campbell Associates; and deputy director of planning for Newport News, Virginia, where he established an award-winning citizen participation program called “Framework for the Future.”
For 12 years, Allen was Newport News’s vice mayor. In that role he challenged the concept of public housing, supported mentoring programs that empowered citizens, and nurtured community and cultural enrichment organizations.
Within the professional planning association, Allen chaired the joint AIP/ASPO (precursor organizations to APA) Minority Affairs Committee. He was a charter member of APA and served on the National Policy Coordinating Committee (forerunner to the current Legislative and Policy Committee) and on the APA Board of Directors from 1979 to 1982.
His work in the profession garnered awards from numerous professional organizations, including his undergraduate alma mater Hampton University and the NAACP.