Remembering Tate Lanning

Remembering Tate Lanning

WithersRavenel is saddened to observe the passing of John “Tate” Lanning Jr., a former employee of the firm and a friend to many of our longest-serving staff.

A North Carolina native, Tate was born in Durham and graduated from Duke University with his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He took a facility design position at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, but eventually returned to North Carolina for work in Charlotte and then Raleigh.

In 1972, he established Tate Lanning & Associates, specializing in the design of water and wastewater systems for municipalities throughout North Carolina. His skill and commitment to the profession of engineering were recognized by the Professional Engineers of North Carolina (PENC) with a Distinguished Service Award in 1990.

As Tate’s reputation grew within the industry and the community, his work caught the attention of WithersRavenel’s co-founders, Tony Withers and Sam Ravenel. In 2002, WithersRavenel acquired Tate Lanning & Associates, greatly expanding the firm’s utility engineering and design capabilities and laying the groundwork for our present-day Utilities Department.

“I had the pleasure of working with him on the Sewer Project for the Town of Faith,” recounts W.T. Sorrell, one of WithersRavenel’s Business Development Representatives. “He was a fine man!”

Senior Technical Consultant Hunter Freeman, who worked with Tate when Stormwater and Utilities were combined in a single Water Resources Department, agrees. “Tate was just a delight to be around. A great engineer, working in communities that needed him greatly. He was a great mentor, always treated me well and gave up his time to lend an ear when I asked him for advice.”

Tate was not only an accomplished engineer but also an avid golfer, as several of our employees can attest. Hunter went on to say, “My fondest memories with Tate were on the golf course. As a teammate he was a steady hand, little excitement, just a humble shrug and a knowing smile after hitting yet another drive down the middle or making another putt. His obvious joy when watching a birdie putt was contagious, and his ability to laugh off the occasional miss rather than resort to anger or succumb to frustration was a lesson many of us can learn from.”

Michael Wicker, another Senior Technical Consultant who worked with Tate in the Water Resources Department, repeated this theme. “I first met Tate over 35 years ago, while I was a review engineer at NCDEQ, and was immediately impressed by his professionalism and the quality of his work—but most of all by the gentleman that he was. Throughout my career Tate was an icon of what a ‘Professional Engineer’ and a man ought to be, and I feel extremely blessed from the opportunity to work with him here at WithersRavenel.”

Tate continued to provide his expertise to WithersRavenel until his retirement in 2007. Several of our staff remained in touch with Tate following his departure, and a few had made plans to visit him at Grace Ridge Retirement Community in Morganton when the COVID-19 pandemic eventually ended.

We regret being unable to visit Tate one last time before his passing, but understand that he and his family were well cared for by Burke Hospice and the staff of Grace Ridge.

President Jim Canfield sums up our collective feelings best when he says, “Tate was a great engineer and an even better person. We were fortunate to have him on our team.”

WithersRavenel has made contributions in memory of Tate to the Grace Ridge Endowment Fund and Grace Episcopal Church in Morganton.