Ralph J. Palmer, the second son of Sheldon and Martha Hampton Palmer, was born on May 23, 1940 in Palmer, Kentucky, a small community located in southeastern Estill County, named after his great-grandparents who settled in the area in the late 1800’s. His family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1940 where his father obtained employment at Kirk & Bloom Sheet Metal factory. After saving enough to make a down payment on a farm, Ralph’s parents returned to Clark County in July 1949, where Ralph attended Trapp Elementary School and graduated from Clark County High School in 1958. Ralph was selected to be a recipient of the Kentucky Department of Highways Scholarship in 1958, thus commencing his professional career in the highway field. He was assigned to a survey crew that provided layout for I-64 in Clark County, which included a 300 feet right of way strip of his family’s property.
In 1963, Mr. Palmer graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. As an undergraduate engineering student, he worked part-time at the Department of Highways Research Center as a soils technician, was very active in the Triangle Engineering Fraternity, serving as its president, and an Air Force ROTC cadet.
Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and entered active duty as a Staff Civil Engineer in Madison, Wisconsin (1963-66), and Chief of Engineering and Construction in Kunsan, Korea (1966-67). Upon completion of active duty, he returned to Kentucky and to the Kentucky Department of Transportation as an Associate Engineer. Serving as a project engineer for Taylor Engineering in 1968-69, he managed five survey crews involved in highway projects, and designed box culverts, industrial sites and Forest Service roads.
Mr. Palmer and his associate, Dick Nunan, founded Palmer Engineering in 1969. Under his leadership and guidance as President and CEO, the firm has grown from a small four-person survey firm to a 100-person multi-disciplinary consulting firm with eight offices in six states. Among the firm’s areas of expertise are design of highways and bridges; traffic engineering; environmental services; transportation planning; surveying services; site development; and 3D and 4D computer-generated visualizations.
During Mr. Palmer’s celebrated career, he has distinguished himself as a state and national leader in the promotion of engineering education and the engineering profession. This is demonstrated by his memberships in 14 societies, councils, federations and associations including the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, National Society of Professional Engineers, Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers, Kentucky Association of Professional Surveyors, Kentucky Geological Survey Advisory Board, Kentucky Transportation Center Advisory Board, and the Society of American Military Engineers.
His passion for improving the quality of the engineering profession has been seen through his work as a member of the Kentucky State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. He was inducted into the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) College of Fellows in 1995, an elite group of individuals recognized by their peers as experts in their engineering field. In April 2003, he was honored with induction into the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Hall of Distinction.
Mr. Palmer’s enthusiasm and support for professional development is well known among his employees, as they are encouraged to become involved in professional societies. In 2001, Palmer Engineering was selected as one of the few firms chosen to receive an ASCE Employer Recognition Award.
Mr. Palmer is also very committed to civic activities. His memberships include: UK Engineering Alumni Association Board, Clark County UK Alumni Association, Clark County Health Department Board, Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce Board, Kentucky Bank Board, Central Bank-Winchester Board, Hope Hill Children’s Home Board, Winchester First Church of God, member and board chairman. Mr. Palmer also serves as a director and executive committee member of Mid-America Christian University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
He has been married to the former Linda Whittington for more than 40 years, and they have three children and seven grandchildren. Sons, Craig and Randy are an integral part of Palmer Engineering, and R.J. is a banker and Kentucky State Senator. Ralph and Linda make their home in Winchester, and spend the winter months in Florida.
For more information on Ralph Palmer, read his Hall of Distinction biography.