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Meridian native, architect dies

By Staff
From staff and wire reports
Dec. 31, 2001
Meridian native Samuel Mockbee, an award-winning architect who lectured at many universities, died Sunday of complications from leukemia at a Jackson hospital.
A funeral service for is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Church of the Mediator in Meridian, followed by burial at Magnolia Cemetery. Mockbee was 57.
Archer, a friend of Mockbee's for more than 40 years, said his greatest accomplishment was founding Auburn University's Rural Architectural Studio in rural West Alabama.
Mockbee received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2000, commonly known as a genius'' grant, partly in recognition of his work with the Rural Architecture Studio.
A graduate of Auburn who founded his architectural firm in 1977, Mockbee grew up in Meridian and had lived in Canton for several years.
He pursued architecture as an art form, but he also pursued it as a social cause, to help people who have less,'' Jackson architect Jim Eley said. He made a lot out of life.''
Mockbee founded the Rural Architecture Studio in Hale County. From there, he and his students designed and built architecturally unique and inexpensive houses for indigent residents in one of the nation's poorest regions.
The students are learning about architecture from the ground up, but they're learning a lot more than that,'' Mockbee said in a newspaper interview earlier this year. And they're learning by doing what they ought to be doing, making a difference.''
Archer said that Mockbee "mentored, watched, pushed and pulled. Then they would actually begin to build homes, a community center, a chapel. Students had to find and scavenge and scrounge materials themselves."
In seven years of using salvage timber, license plates, old tires and hay bales, Auburn students built five houses, two community centers, a playground and a community chapel.
Mockbee devised the idea in 1992 while serving as a guest critic for students at a Clemson University-owned villa in Italy. Back at Auburn, he proposed that instead of sending students abroad, the university should deploy them to the Black Belt.
Last year, Mockbee received the National Building Museum's first Apgar Award for excellence.
Models of some of Mockbee's designs in Alabama will join the work of a select few other artists at the prestigious 2002 Whitney Biennial Show in New York.
Survivors include his wife, Jackie; three daughters and a son.