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Richard Dempsey papers, 1929-1989, bulk 1960s-1980s

Biographical Note

Richard W. Dempsey (1909-1987) was a painter known primarily for his abstract works and his portraits of prominent African American individuals including Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, and Adam Clayton Powell. He was born in Ogden, Utah, but spent the majority of his youth in Oakland, California. He studied art at Sacramento Junior College, the California School of Arts and Crafts, and the Student Arts Center. Dempsey had four exhibitions in California before moving to Washington, D.C. to begin work as an engineering draftsman with the Federal Power Commission in 1941. He later transferred to a position as an illustrator with the General Services Administration (GSA), where he would spend the rest of his nearly 30-year government career.
In addition to his work with the GSA, Dempsey participated in the Art in Embassies program for decades, and his work was chosen by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell to hang in the Education Labor Committee rooms.
Dempsey was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1946 to paint 100 portriats of "Outstanding American Negros." He taught art courses at the Corcoran School of Art and at Glen Echo and received invitations to exhibit around the world in places like Haiti, Colombia, and Jamaica. He exhibited frequently in the U.S., most often with Franz Bader Gallery in Washington, D.C.