William R. Aycock, 90, was chairman, part owner of McLean Contracting Co.

May 31, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

William R. Aycock, a self-taught engineer who worked his way up from construction foreman to president and chairman of McLean Contracting Co., died Saturday of Alzheimer's disease at the Copper Ridge retirement community in Sykesville. He was 90.

Mr. Aycock, who retired from McLean in 1986 after 47 years with the company, lived in Ellicott City for nearly 30 years before moving to Copper Ridge 14 months ago.

He was born and grew up on a farm near Kannapolis, N.C., but left there after dropping out of high school at about age 15 to work as a carpenter on construction of the Hoover Dam, on the Colorado River. He rose to the position of foreman on the project and studied advanced engineering in classes provided by the government.

"He took advantage of the learning and sometimes would go to what he described as a `small desert town' called Las Vegas," said Herb Garten, an attorney for Mr. Aycock and the McLean company.

Mr. Aycock returned to the East Coast in 1939, when he took a job as a construction foreman with Baltimore-based McLean.

He rose steadily through the company and became part owner, president and chairman of the board.

Some of the projects Mr. Aycock oversaw included the installation of the foundations and columns for Maryland's Bay Bridges and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia, as well as the bulkheading of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

"He was a soft-spoken, very dedicated company man. The company came first, and employees came first, and he was revered and loved by the people that worked for him," said Mr. Garten, who had known Mr. Aycock since 1952. "His family was important to him, but he was what I would term `a company man.' "

Mr. Aycock had a passion for antique cars. His collection, which he began in the 1980s, included a 1928 Model A Ford, a 1937 Packard limousine, two Rolls Royce limousines and a 1936 Auburn Roadster.

Each of his cars -- some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars -- won a national championship in competitions, Mr. Garten said.

When he was in his 80s, Mr. Aycock obtained a Class A license to drive a tractor-trailer, which he used to transport two of his cars to car shows around the country.

Mr. Aycock visited Las Vegas once or twice a year, but he did "nothing in excess," said his grandson, David K. Johnstone III. "He was always concerned about his image.

"He had a dry humor," he said. "He enjoyed sports, baseball especially. He used to play with me all the time."

Mr. Aycock was married for 54 years to the former Margaret Shade, who died in 1990.

He is survived by a daughter, Veronica Rizak of Ellicott City; two sisters, Doris Cress of China Grove, N.C., and Hazel Delk of South Carolina; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Services are to be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church, Edmondson Avenue and Winans Way, in Baltimore.

Donations may be sent to the Alzheimer's Association, Central Maryland Chapter, 1850 York Road, Suite D, Timonium 21093.

Pub Date: 5/31/99

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