Charles W. Durham (1917-2008), Civil Engineer

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Omaha, Nebraska; active 1939-1997

Charles Durham was a civil engineer who built the Omaha-based Henningson Durham & Richardson into one of the nation’s largest architectural and engineering companies. Over three decades he grew HDR from fifteen employees working on Nebraska paving and sewer projects into a company of 1700 workers with offices in twenty cities, and with contracts in all fifty states as well as twenty-seven foreign countries.

Durham was also the founder and owner or co-owner of other business enterprises, including Duplicating Services, an Omaha printing and publishing company originally purposed to do HDR’s printing; Continental Care Centers, Inc., which built and operated care centers for the elderly; and Durham Resources, a holding company for his diverse financial interests, which included entities such as Great Plains Natural Gas Company.

Durham married Margre Ann Henningson, and together they raised three daughters and one son. The Durhams were life-long residents of Omaha, and were known for their charitable giving and philanthropy. Charles Durham was considered an Omaha civic leader in the same mold as colleagues Peter Kiewit, Mike Harper and V. J. Skutt, and was the recipient of numerous civic awards.[3:162] Durham and his wife were generous in their support of education and medical research, and many facilities now bear the Durham name. He passed away April 5, 2008. Upon his death, Rep. Lee Terry praised Durham as a community leader, visionary, philanthropist, businessman, and family man who loved the city of Omaha.[1][3]

Educational & Professional Associations

1938: summer job with Henningson Engineering Company, Engineers, Omaha, Nebraska.[2:5]

1939: engineering and civil engineering degrees, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.[2:5][4:11]

1939: draftsman, Henningson Engineering Company, Omaha, Nebraska.[2:5]

1940-1946: engineer, Henningson Engineering Company, Omaha, Nebraska.[2:5][4:11-12]

1946-1950: engineer and partner (vice president), Henningson Engineering Company, Omaha, Nebraska.[2:5][4:11-12]

1950-1976: engineer and president, Henningson Durham & Richardson, Architects & Engineers, Omaha, Nebraska.[1][2:5-6]

1976-1986: chairman and chief executive officer, Henningson Durham & Richardson, Omaha, Nebraska.[2:6]

1987-1997: chairman of the board, Durham Resources, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska.

1999: retired.

Professional Honors & Awards

1978: Award of Merit, Iowa State College of Engineering.[3:167]

1984: Engineer of the Year, National Society of Professional Engineers.[3:167]

1984: Marston Medal and Honorary Tau Beta Pi, Iowa State University.[3:167]

Writings & Visual Arts

Charles W. Durham and Robert F. Krohn, Henningson, Durham & Richardson: Offering Professional Design Services Since 1917 (New York: The Newcomen Society in North America, 1978).



1. Rep. Lee Terry, “In Remembrance of the Late Charles W. Durham of Omaha, Nebraska,” Congressional Record (House) 154:56 (April 9, 2008), E557, accessed January 16, 2013,

2. Charles W. Durham and Robert F. Krohn, Henningson, Durham & Richardson: Offering Professional Design Services Since 1917 (New York: The Newcomen Society in North America, 1978).

3. Bob Reilly, editor, LUCKY, The Story of the Durhams and HDR (Omaha: Barnum Press, 1998).

4. HDR, History of Excellence: 90th Anniversary, 1917-2007 (Omaha: HDR, 2007), accessed January 16, 2013,

Page Citation

D. Murphy, “Charles W. Durham (1917-2008), Civil Engineer,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, January 27, 2015. Accessed, September 30, 2022.

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