Herb McKim, Prominent North Carolina Architect, Dies

March 9, 2010

By Tom Sawyer

Herb McKim
Herb McKim

Herbert (Herb) Pope McKim, FAIA, died March 3 at his home in Wilmington, North Carolina after a gradual decline in health. He was a founding partner at Ballard, McKim & Sawyer Architects, where he worked for 45 years. He was known as a tenacious defender of design intent, a Modernist with big ideas and a portfolio of government and institutional facilities.

“Nothing intimidated him, as far as architectural scope of work or ideas,” says George C. (Chip) Hemingway, an architect who worked under McKim for many years. “He had his vision and he did all he could do to make the buildings turn out according to his vision, through the design process and the construction process. … He was tireless.”

McKim, 82, was born in Robersonville, North Carolina, and served with the U.S. Marines in World War II. After earning an architecture degree from North Carolina State University in 1950, he started practicing at Leslie N. Boney Architects, in Wilmington, before partnering with Frank I. Ballard in 1955 to form Ballard & McKim Architects. With the addition of Robert W. Sawyer in 1959, the firm became Ballard, McKim & Sawyer.

Boney and Sawyer passed away in 1997 and 2005, respectively. In 2009, the firm became BMH Architects and today is led by Bruce F. Bowman, John D. Murray, and Hemingway.

Herb McKim, Noted North Carolina Architect, Dies
Image © Gordon Schenck

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McKim was lead architect on many notable buildings throughout North Carolina, including the Legislative Office Building No. 3 in Raleigh, the three North Carolina Aquariums, major chemistry buildings at both North Carolina State University in Raleigh and at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as numerous buildings at UNC-Wilmington and a classroom tower at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington. He also designed many distinguished residences, among other structures.

In addition to leading a life filled with community service and sailing, he served for a decade on the North Carolina Board of Registration for Architects, and also as president of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. He became a fellow in the American Institute of Architects in 1989 and, in 2001, received his state AIA chapter’s highest annual honor: the F. Carter Williams Gold Medal, which recognizes an architect for career service.

McKim is survived by his wife, Catherine, one brother and one sister, and a daughter and two sons, one of whom, Herb McKim, Jr., is president of the Wilmington-based engineering firm of McKim & Creed.

Tom Sawyer is an editor at Engineering News-Record and the son of the late Robert W. Sawyer.

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