LeRoy Middleton: A Well-Loved Land Surveyor, Historian, and Co-Founder of Reid Middleton

In memoriam June 27, 1924 – January 5, 2012.

We lost an icon in the field of professional land surveying last month. In researching his life to share with readers on this blog post, I had the opportunity to learn what a truly great man he was; one who made a significant contribution to the profession of land surveying and historical preservation in Washington.

Some of the management team in 1983 included Ken Reid, Jim Reid, Gail Perrigo, LeRoy Middleton, Mary Anne Lord, Tom Nack, and Lloyd Nelson

LeRoy was 87 years old when he died and had been ‘retired’ from Reid Middleton for 24 years. Yet we saw him in the office just about every month, for one reason or another. Although he and I greeted one another casually as you do when you pass in the hallway, I only met Mr. Middleton formally once and it was in my first week after joining Reid Middleton. His advice to me as the new Marketing Manager was to “make sure we always have a presence in the Yellow Pages!” That was all the marketing they needed in the firm’s early years. I found him to be a bit formidable while charming and approachable at the same time.

In 1953, LeRoy began working with Jim Reid (deceased in 1994), forming the basis of Reid Middleton, which is today an enduring and recognized Pacific Northwest engineering and surveying firm.

During his 33 years of service at Reid Middleton, in addition to corporate administration, he led the survey practice specializing in boundary disputes, shorelands, tidelands, and hydrographic surveys. His avid interest in history prompted him to become particularly versed in historical survey data. LeRoy was also a recognized expert in the area of Native American treaty land boundaries and served as an expert witness in state and federal courts.

LeRoy participating in “Blue Shirt” day, when all staff wore blue dress shirts in honor of Jim Reid’s last day.

What I found interesting and remarkable was how LeRoy started in this field. He was drafted into the U.S. Army while a student in aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington (UW) during World War II and was stationed in New Caledonia (A French territory in the south Pacific, 930 miles east of Australia). Trained in anti-aircraft, he learned of an opening for a draftsman with the 1729 Engineers Unit and transferred. Once there, he discovered that what they actually needed was survey crew members; he spent the next eight months surveying for the base engineer. He was later shipped to New Guinea where he fought in the Battle of Luzon. After the war, he completed his studies at UW in Civil Engineering in 1949 and worked in his chosen profession the remainder of his life, earning his professional survey license in 1952.

An active member of both the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping and the  Land Surveyors Association of Washington (LSAW), LeRoy was a past president and remained involved with the organizations through retirement. Active until his death, LeRoy was scheduled to teach two LSAW refresher courses this year. He was a founding member of and remained active in the Edmonds-Snohomish County Historical Society. In the course of his rich career and varied interests, he had too many achievements to share in this post, but a few of his many accomplishments are highlighted in the sidebar text.

I asked some of my peers at the firm who knew LeRoy better than I to share some of their thoughts about him. Their comments and anecdotes follow.

“My first exposure to LeRoy Middleton was in finding what books to study for my Professional Land Surveyor license. His 1993 course manual ‘Tidelands, Shorelands & Riparian Boundaries’ still remains a mandatory resource in taking the Washington exam.  I met LeRoy in classes he taught over the years at annual Land Surveyors Conferences. When I became the Survey Director at Reid Middleton, and I got to know him, I discovered a deep love of our profession, a confidence in his survey acumen and a continued interest in current surveying challenges. His contemporaries respected his standards and quality of work, he was a good mentor, and he valued keeping “proper” records. Even today I am asked for copies of our extensive survey records that start in the early 1950’s.

 “LeRoy had a deep interest in researching the history of surveying as the West was developed, and he often shared some interesting nuance of his findings at some obscure museum or out of circulation book. He shared my interest in early GLO surveys in the Oregon Territories and would stand in my office giving a colorful story about some spot on the map reminding me, more than once, that his ancestors had traveled along the Applegate Trail to Jacksonville before heading north to the wild lands of Washington. I joked with LeRoy that he really stopped in once a month just to see that his name was still on the door.

“I am honored, as many before me in the company, to walk in his footsteps.” Jerry Franklin, PLS Reid Middleton Survey Group Director

“Forty one years ago I met LeRoy Middleton as an engineering student at Shoreline Community College (SCC). I was taking a class on land surveying and property legal descriptions and LeRoy was the instructor. I learned quickly that he was a very detail-oriented man during his presentations regarding legal descriptions and what they needed to say. He presented many examples, both good and bad, as he taught us. Near the end of the term and after hours of instruction, Leroy approached me with a proposition for employment at his company, Reid Middleton. Since I was close to graduation, the offer of employment was an offer I could not refuse. Leroy invited me to the office to meet some of the staff. It was a Saturday and that began what has turned out to be a lifetime adventure in the surveying and engineering design community in the State of Washington. LeRoy continued to mentor me in the art of surveying until his retirement from the firm; I came to know him as an expert in everything that was connected with surveying both on land and water. “ Allan Morgan, CPESC, Project Designer, Reid Middleton employee since 1973

“LeRoy had a very good sense of humor and always had something humorous to convey. He would frequently be chuckling as he told of a humorous event or observation. I remember one story of his where he and Jim Reid were on a bus trip, and LeRoy observed Jim working on his camera – Jim was quite the photo enthusiast. Of course, this was when 35mm cameras were film only; digital cameras were yet to be invented. LeRoy wasn’t quite sure what Jim was doing with his camera – seemed like he might have been rewinding the film, but at one point in his fumbling, Jim inadvertently opened the camera exposing the film. LeRoy chuckled with delight as he shared in detail Jim’s shock and horror at what he had just done and his attempt to quickly close the camera – of course to no avail.

“Family was very important to LeRoy which was apparent whenever I would chat with him. He talked with great pride and enthusiasm about the activities and accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. LeRoy was easy to visit with and our conversations were enjoyable. I will miss being able to catch up on things with LeRoy from time to time.” Reinhart Jung, PE, Principal Airport Engineer, Reid Middleton employee since 1966