Colleagues pay tribute to mentor, friend Wilton King (1937-2016)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Professor Emeritus Wilton W. King

The Georgia Tech community is remembering Wilton W. King as a talented teacher and a supportive colleague this week. King, a professor emeritus in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, died Nov. 21. He was 79 years old.

King joined the faculty of the School of Engineering Science and Mechanics in 1964 after earning his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. He rose to associate director of that program, which merged with the then School of Civil Engineering in the late 1980s.

“What I remember most about him was that he was tremendously encouraging to young faculty and went out of his way to help when he could,” said Ray Vito, a professor emeritus in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and special assistant to the provost. Vito worked with King for a decade in the engineering science and mechanics program.

“He was a gifted teacher and recognized as such by the students in their exit surveys,” Vito said. “His dedication to teaching is evident in that his textbook — coauthored with Dave McGill — is still used. Amazing.”

King wrote two textbooks with McGill that remain required reading for undergraduate classes: one on statics and one on rigid body dynamics. McGill said he knew King for more than 50 years and was fortunate to have worked with him on those books.

“Wilton was a great teacher and researcher,” said McGill, who moved with King to civil engineering from the separate engineering science and mechanics program and is now a professor emeritus. “I remember that he taught a class for CE for free after he retired, because he missed teaching so much.”

College of Engineering Associate Dean Larry Jacobs called King a great teacher and a class act. King was among the faculty members who interviewed and hired Jacobs and became one of the young professor’s mentors at Georgia Tech.

“He was very helpful to me early on in my career, giving me excellent advice and help in both my teaching and research,” said Jacobs, who is also a professor in civil engineering and mechanical engineering.

He said King’s courses in engineering science and mechanics were known as some of the most difficult for Tech undergrads: “Wilton was a tough but fair classroom instructor. He was well-prepared, student-friendly, and extremely knowledgeable.”

King retired from Georgia Tech after 28 years and, according to McGill, “did some great work on connectors at Bell Labs.” It was work that resulted in several patents for fiber optic connectors during King’s decade on the company’s technical staff.

King was a registered professional engineer in Georgia for 30 years. He lived in Dunwoody, Georgia, with his wife of 58 years, Kay. He is survived by his children W. Wayt Jr., Barbara, Stephen and Carolyn as well as 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.