James E. McCarty, former APWA President, dies at 82

Former APWA President James E. McCarty, a nationally recognized leader in public works for many years, died on January 22 in Oakland, California. He was 82.

McCarty served more than 30 years in public works for the City of Oakland, becoming Director of Public Works and Superintendent of Streets in 1961. Under his leadership, Oakland established a citywide coordinated public works department, which was reorganized to encompass four separate departments. He managed an aggressive street resurfacing program; sign, signal and street-marking improvement programs; and improved street cleaning, using controlled parking measures. Other programs McCarty influenced include drainage, freeway and Bay Area Rapid Transit development, parking structure construction, city redevelopment, major railroad crossing construction, and arterial street design.

In addition to serving as APWA President in 1977-78, McCarty was President of the Northern California Chapter, Chairman of the APWA Research Foundation, member of the Task Force on Emergency Management, Trustee of the Public Works Historical Society, and a member of the APWA Reporter's Editorial Advisory Board. He was named a Top Ten Public Works Leader of the Year in 1981, and in 1989 he received Honorary Membership, APWA's highest distinction. He served as President of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1993, and was also selected as an Honorary Member of ASCE.

A retired U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, McCarty served with the Reserve's Corps of Engineers from 1946 to 1962. He was preceded in death by his wife, Phyllis. He is survived by four children, Patricia Trovato, Michael McCarty, Christine Hansen and James E. McCarty III.

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering, McCarty was asked in an interview for the APWA Reporter (December 1991) what significant events shaped his career. He responded, "I was part of an entire generation of people whose education and careers were both interrupted and shaped by military service in World War II. It was my military experience in an engineering battalion that attracted me to get involved with public works construction in civilian life. But even as a Boy Scout I enjoyed going to summer camp and working on construction projects. Building things always held a special fascination for me."

"Jim McCarty was a quiet giant in public works," said Dr. Howard Rosen, Program Director, University of Wisconsin, and Public Works Historical Society President. "He was the sort of professional who avoided the limelight and let their work speak for them."

"Jim McCarty truly was a giant of the public works profession," said Jim Martin, former Public Works Director for the City of Fresno, California, and former APWA President. "To my knowledge, he was one of only two men to serve as President of both APWA and the American Society of Civil Engineers. He served his city, APWA, and ASCE in an outstanding manner. His expertise, balanced approach, and fine personality led to his being invited to serve on many prestigious committees and related groups, both within the profession and within his community. I will always cherish having had the great privilege of knowing, working with, and being a friend of Jim McCarty."