Engineer, educator, administrator, and author – “Mac” Yowell’s contributions to the engineering profession are many and varied.
J.M. “Mac” Yowell, the only child of James McFarland Yowell and Lyda McIlwain Yowell, was born in Hattiesburg , Mississippi on August 7, 1937 . His father was an Ole Miss graduate and project engineer with the Mississippi Highway Department. After his father died in 1941, his mother married George Saunders, and the family moved to Bowling Green , Kentucky in January 1949, when Mac was in seventh grade. He graduated from Bowling Green High School as valedictorian of his class in May 1954. That September he enrolled in the UK College of Engineering with a goal of becoming an electrical engineer. Three semesters later, he decided to make a change. Following his father’s path, he pursued civil engineering, earned membership in Tau Beta Pi honor society, and was on his way to an outstanding career. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering in May 1959, and one week later was on the job with the Kentucky Department of Highways.
He began his career as an assistant resident engineer in Elizabethtown , and also worked in the Lexington and Bowling Green districts as a resident engineer on both I-75 and I-65. In June of 1965, he left the Department to try his skills in the private sector. He spent 27 years working for various contractors in Kentucky and Tennessee , and a short time as a construction management engineer for the Economic Development Administration in Huntsville , Alabama . He often taught night courses in the engineering technology department at Western Kentucky University . There still exists a handbook he wrote and illustrated titled “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Spiral Curves…..and Were Afraid to Ask.”
In 1984, the Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers named him the Outstanding Professional Engineer in construction.
Governor Brereton Jones appointed Mr. Yowell State Highway Engineer in 1992. He continued to serve in that position under Governors Paul Patton and Ernie Fletcher until his retirement from state government on December 31, 2004 .
As State Highway Engineer, Mr. Yowell was responsible for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the 27,000 miles of roadways under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Department of Highways. He supervised a workforce of more than 5,000.
In January 1999, he was appointed to the Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors and was reappointed for a second four-year term in January 2003.
Mr. Yowell has found time to serve the Civil Engineering Department at UK as an instructor, as chair of the Industry Advisory Committee, and as vice chair of the Construction Engineering Advisory Committee. He also serves on the advisory board for the Engineering Department at Western Kentucky University .
As valuable as he has been to Kentucky , his service and skills are known far beyond the Commonwealth. In the spring of 2000, he spent 10 days in Russia as part of a Federal Highway Administration technology exchange program. He is a member of a National Academy of Science committee studying the effects of road density on the nation’s ecosystem. He is a licensed engineer in Kentucky , Tennessee , Georgia , South Carolina , and Florida , a member of the Kentucky and National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Mr. Yowell has been married since 1959 to the former Carol Hall of Bowling Green. They have two children, Lisa Hutcheson of Ft. Myers , Florida , and James M. Yowell III of London , Kentucky , and three grandchildren. Since retiring, Mac has worked as Southeast Director of American Engineers, Inc. and is based in Atlanta .