Former LAUP prof, preservation advocate Echols dies in Virginia

Ralph Gordon Echols

Ralph Gordon Echols

Ralph Gordon Echols, Texas A&M professor emeritus of landscape architecture and urban planning and a former College of Architecture associate dean, died Friday, July 18, 2014 at Centra Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia.

Echols, who joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1975, was named professor emeritus in 1998. He served as associate dean during the college deanship of Raymond Reed in the 1970s.

“He was a good researcher and dedicated lover of built heritage,” said David Woodcock, director emeritus of the Center for Heritage Conservation.

Echols authored several books, including Early Texas Architecture, in which he examined dwellings ranging from primitive dugouts and dog-run log cabins to stylish Greek Revival and Victorian structures. The book, published in 2000, earned an award from the San Antonio Preservation Association.

Born September 12, 1929, in Bluefield, West Virginia, Echols was the son of Ralph and Rowena Carper Echols.

He received Bachelor and Master of Architecture degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and the yearbook editor.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, he served in the U.S. Air Force, eventually becoming a captain while performing planning and architecture projects. He also performed early civil defense planning for the Department of Defense.

Echols later earned a Master of Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, where he studied under Spanish architect and city planner Josep Lluís Sert, and a Master of City Planning from the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania.

After earning his masters’ degrees, Echols worked with renowned German architect and Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius at Architects Collaborative, which Gropius established in 1945. He also helped excavate and document the lettering at Temple of the Inscriptions, a Mayan pyramid at Tikal, Guatemala.

He began his teaching career at Virginia Tech, where he taught architecture and urban planning. He then became professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio before coming to Texas A&M.

During his retirement, he served as a Lynchburg, Va. planning commissioner, a member of the Southern Memorial Association and the Valley Conservation Council.

His wife of 33 years, Agnes Patton Echols, and his daughter Annette Lee Palmer preceded Echols in death. He is survived by his wife, Ann Rowe Echols, son Ralph James Echols and his wife, Elaine, son Gordon Alexander Echols and wife Chriss Pryately, son Stuart Echols and wife Anne, son-in-law Thomas Palmer, and four grandchildren, John, Pete, Emily, and Karina Echols.

posted August 5, 2014