Wilton Ferguson never lost his eye for a good design.
Well into retirement, the man who helped create the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (imploded 1997), Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., the Georgia Dome, the expansion of the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium and others always kept a sketchpad within arm’s reach.
“He would go into a building and come home and try to draw it,” daughter Ellen Schneidau said.
Wilton Lindsay Ferguson, who channeled his passions for sports and architecture into designing sports complexes here and across the country died Jan. 23 after a brief illness. He was 90.
A funeral service for Ferguson, a longtime partner in the well-known Atlanta architectural firm Heery International, now CRB/Heery, will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
Ferguson was born July 26, 1928, in Asheville, N.C., and grew up in Tryon, N.C., and Spartanburg, S.C.
At Asheville’s Christ School he played baseball and developed his lifelong interest in sports.
His passion for architecture had even deeper roots: his father, John Rugheimer Ferguson, was a noted residential architect in Greenville, S.C., who died when Wilton was about 9.
“I think architecture was a big legacy left for our father,” Schneidau said.
Ferguson went to Clemson University and received his degree in 1951. After graduation, he entered the U.S. Army as a lieutenant and fought with the 25th Infantry Division in the Korean Conflict in 1952 and 1953.
After he came home, he began his architectural career in the Carmel and San Francisco areas of California but moved to Atlanta in the early 1960s for what would be a 30-plus year career with Heery.
Company founder George Heery, now 91, said he and Ferguson often worked side-by-side on projects.
“We got along very well and worked well together,” Heery said. “He was a wonderful person.”
Ralph Merrow of Milledgeville, a former civil engineer with Heery, remembers Ferguson as hard-working, very knowledgeable and “a character in a nice way.”
“He was one of those people you couldn’t help but like,” he said.
In the 1990s, Ferguson came out of retirement to be a part of the design team on the Georgia Dome.
Ferguson really loved the Dome and probably considered it his favorite design, his two children said. (The dome was demolished in 2017).
But Schneidau really got a first-hand look at Ferguson’s perfectionist side when he drew plans for a major renovation at her home. When the stairs were installed, he was unhappy with the job.
“I’ll never forget, at my house he made them take the stairs out twice, until they got them right,” she said.
Ferguson was living on his own until early January, driving and cooking his own meals, when he developed pneumonia, his children said.
“He was very independent, and that was so important to him,” daughter Schneidau’s said.” He had this vitality and spunk. He lived life the way he wanted to live it.”
He also had a signature straw hat that seldom left his head. At his retirement party from Heery, he was presented a framed rendering of some of his many building designs – complete with a drawing of him in the straw hat.
John Ferguson described his father as a person who was very loyal and “had real conviction.”
“He was a man of principle, and he lived by those principles,” he said.
Family gatherings also were very important to him.
“He was with us on Christmas Day, drinking champagne and having a big time,” daughter Schneidau said.
Ferguson was preceded in death by his wife of more than 30 years, Daisy Smith Ferguson, and a sister, Charlotte Ferguson Sloan of Greenville, S.C.
His survivors include daughter Ellen Ferguson Schneidau, of Atlanta; son John Lindsay Ferguson, of Atlanta; and three grandchildren.
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