B.J. Kingdon, co-founder of LawKingdon Architecture, dies at age 87

Even though B.J. Kingdon was hard at work building one of Wichita’s biggest architecture firms, he was always available for his three children’s “important stuff.”

“Including when we got in trouble, he would show up for that, too,” said daughter Kristy Simpson.

Mr. Kingdon, co-founder and former president of LawKingdon Architecture, died Tuesday. He was 87.

He started the 90-employee firm in 1967 with two partners. Mr. Kingdon graduated from high school in Branson, Mo., and served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II, Simpson said.

While overseas, he was in charge of a group of prisoners of war — POWs who later wrote him letters thanking him for the way he treated them during their captivity, she said.

“He (also) had a pet monkey while in the service that they taught to play cards, drink and smoke,” Simpson said.

Mr. Kingdon earned his architecture degree at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

The attribute that Simpson attaches most to her father was his integrity. She remembers going to his office one day and seeing a bunch of colored markers that she wanted to take home. He told her, “No.” They weren’t to be taken home. They were the property of the firm.

“I know now that I have my own business you just don’t take stuff like that,” Simpson said. “It’s business property.”

Simpson said she recalled lots of fond and some funny memories – including the time Mr. Kingdon built a dog house in the basement of their home. Once he was ready to take it outside, he realized it was too big to get up the basement staircase.

Dennis Smith, who took over as president of the firm when Mr. Kingdon retired in 1994, started at the firm as an intern architect and worked under Mr. Kingdon’s direction for 20 years.

“He was a prince of a guy to work for,” Smith said. “(He was) a guy who hired good people and surrounded himself with good people. He basically supported them but got out of the way.”

Smith said the firm’s biggest projects under Mr. Kingdon included Towne East Square at Rock and Kellogg in the late 1970s and Towne West Square in 1980. Mr. Kingdon also was the lead architect on the firm’s seven-story Riverview Building downtown.

Mr. Kingdon was preceded in death by his first wife, Sue Kingdon. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis J. Kingdon; his son, Reed Kingdon; his daughters, Kristy (Ron) Simpson and Kasey Bell; a stepdaughter, Penny (Steve) Lawson; a stepson, Glen (Stacey) Pearson; and seven grandchildren and stepgrandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Downing and Lahey East, 6555 E. Central. A celebration of his life will be held afterward at the Candle Club, 6135 E. 13th St., Simpson said.