From the Collections for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Stein, Joseph (1916-1977)
Portrait Head of Martin Luther King, 1970
Bronze, 30 cm high
Gift of Edward T. Pollack ‘55

Joseph Stein was an architect in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he designed several important buildings, including the award winning Silas Bronson Library addition, the Waterbury Club and the American Savings Bank in Waterbury. He had been an officer in command of a black unit during World War II, and thereafter had a strong interest in the Civil Rights movement. He began the portrait head shortly after the murder of King, and worked on it for over a year. Six casts were made, one of which was given to Coretta Scott King by Stein, and is displayed in the Martin Luther King Library. According to an article in the Waterbury American of January 2, 1986, Mrs. King told Joseph Stein that his was the finest portrait of Dr. King that she had seen. A second cast is in the Bronson Library in Waterbury. The remaining casts were owned by relatives or friends of Stein; the present cast is one of these.

Joseph Stein was born June 2, 1916, the son of David Stein, an immigrant from Lithuania, and Julia Grossfield Stein, a native of Poland. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1938 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received his master’s degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1941 at a time when Harvard was the only American university to embrace the Modernist movement. Stein’s career was delayed by World War II, in which he served as a first lieutenant in the I 17th Combat Engineers Group, seeing action in Holland, France and Germany. He was awarded a Purple Heart in 1942 as a survivor of a freighter which sank after it was torpedoed by a German submarine off the New England coast. Stein opened an architecture firm in Waterbury in 19-l-8, designing homes and such notable buildings as the Alumni Building at the University of Connecticut, Storrs: Waterbury’s Bureau of Water, Gilmartin and Regan schools, MacDermid corporate headquarters, religious and academic institutions, libraries, commercial and office buildings, and public housing projects. Stein served as president of the Connecticut Society of Architects (CSA) and represented the CSA at the first meeting of the Human Resources Council of the American Institute of Architects (AlA). He was a delegate to the first joint international convention of the AlA and the Royal Architectural -Waterbury American, August 17, 1977 Institute of Canada. He was also a director of the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce and a quiet benefactor of the community. One of Stein’s partners noted that Joe Stein thought that people’s lives could be enhanced by the quality of the space they occupy, a belief that underscored his commitment to working on his affordable housing projects, libraries, schools and private homes. One of the hallmarks of the Stein style was the architect’s firm belief in the collaborative process, which was the essential underpinning of the Bauhaus approach. Stein’s approach to design was direct and succinct. The logic of the underlying construction was made visible through the structural elements and materials. One client stated that the way a Joe Stein house was designed made it stay new, which is an essential attribute of ‘”buildings that are good backgrounds for living.” Joseph Stein was also an accomplished sculptor whose work appears at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and New York University. He donated copies of his Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. bust to King’s widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and the Silas Bronson Library. He was married to Helen Grossman Stein with whom he had three children. His son Michael Stein is a distinguished architect who practices in Connecticut. Joseph Stein died on August 16,1977.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC. Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.”


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