Delon Hampton, esteemed academic, founder of a firm bearing his name that has grown for 48 years, and at the outset of the 21st century, ASCE’s first Black president, has died. He was 87.
From impoverished days in Chicago to expansion of his firm Delon Hampton & Associates Chartered into a multimillion-dollar engineering company with seven offices, his success inspired many in the field as well as students in the classroom.
“He was a geotechnical engineer and he was truly down to earth,” said ASCE 2021 President Jean-Louis Briaud. “As our first Black president, his example will serve to inspire younger generations for many decades to come.”
Hampton, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE(Hon.), Hon.M.ASCE, Pres.00.ASCE, NAE, taught at Kansas State University and oversaw research at the University of New Mexico before joining the faculty at Howard University, in Washington, D.C., in 1968, where he would teach, conduct research, and publish papers for 25 years.
At a time when there were few Black-owned engineering companies, Hampton was a pioneer, founding DHA in 1973. His achievement encouraged minorities to pursue careers in engineering.
He was both founder and chairman of the board at DHA, which won contracts for such high-profile projects as the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, international airports in Atlanta and D.C., and metrorail projects in D.C., Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Key to its profile were the driving principles and traditions established by Hampton, who obtained professional engineering registrations in 18 states plus the District of Columbia.
In 1999 he was elected ASCE president for the year 2000. Over the years, the Society honored him with the Edmund Friedman Professional Recognition Award and the James Laurie Prize. He also served as president of ASCE’s National Capital Section and as district director of the ASCE Board of Direction.
“Delon was a passionate advocate for civil engineering and left a lasting legacy for ASCE and the profession. During his ASCE presidential term, he led the Society to establish the Outstanding Projects and Leaders Awards (OPAL) program, which ASCE continues to this day to recognize and celebrate the heroes of the civil engineering profession,” said Executive Director Tom Smith. “He leaves a long list of lasting ASCE accomplishments and civil engineering projects that enhance the quality of life for all of us. We are grateful for his leadership, service and his generous support of ASCE and offer our deepest sympathies to [spouse] Sonia and his family.”
Hampton’s contributions also took the form of valued service on many professional association boards. He was a former councilor of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among others. He was former chair of the Civil Engineering Research Foundation’s Corporate Advisory Board and Professional Activities Committees and active in a number of industry-related boards, including the American Public Transit Association Business Members Board of Governors, the National Building Museum Board of Directors, and the CEC Memorial Board.
“My first interactions with Dr. Hampton were during a period of my transition to greater national involvement with ASCE,” said 2021 President-elect Dennis Truax. “Even then, it was obvious that Delon was committed to seeing that our profession embraced inclusiveness, not just because it was the right thing to do, but because he understood that we are only at our best when all voices are heard.”
Hampton received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1954 from the University of Illinois. He went on to earn his master’s (1958) and Ph.D. (1961) in civil engineering from Purdue University. Hampton was a Chapter Honor Member of Chi Epsilon.
He loved reading nonfiction, playing tennis and golf, and traveling. He and his wife of 27 years, Sonia, traveled the world together.