South Euclid author Carlo Wolff’s latest book is “Designing Victory,” a memoir he wrote with and about Robert P. Madison, a World War II Buffalo Soldier who would later become a renowned Cleveland-area architect.
Despite initially being rejected from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland because he is black, Madison opened the first African-American architectural firm in Ohio in 1954 and is known for designing the U.S. embassy in Dakar, Senegal and for assisting in the design of Cleveland landmarks such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland Public Library and FirstEnergy Stadium.
Wolff, who is also a freelance writer for the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, will sign copies of “Designing Victory” July 24, at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights. He said he has known Madison for about 23 years and their social circles overlap.
“I was writing a feature in which his voice was requested,” Wolff said. “I explained that to him. At that point, this is in fall 2017, he said something to the effect of, ‘well I’ve been writing these notes and keeping records for 50 years. Some people tell me it’s time to tell my story.’ And my hand shot up like a good student and I said, ‘I’m here for you.’”
Wolff said he was familiar with Madison’s work before he began to write the book with him, but learned more about Madison’s past and upbringing by working with him for the book. He said Madison was easy to work with on the book.
“He’s very with it,” Wolff said. “He hasn’t lost a beat, he’s completely cogent and thoughtful and witty and he had great stories. Was he easy to work with? Yeah, I’d say so.”
Wolff, who has written three other books, said the book is largely about race, as the “umbrella of racism” covered Madison’s life. He said the most enjoyable aspect of writing the book was the professional and personal growth he experienced.
“Professional and personal growth in the sense that I came away from it confident I can channel someone else’s voice into my own writing,” said Wolff, who has written a biography before, but never a memoir. “I came away with even greater respect than I went into it for (Madison) and I consider the book inspiring, as he is).”