James Arn Womble, lead research engineer for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, and an active member of ASCE’s SEI Wind Speed Estimation Standards Committee, has died. He was 52.

From a child, he made use of various materials to build what he saw in his imagination, and when teaching years later, this could mean using a toy or the nearest window slat to help his students understand creative conceptualization.

Prior to joining the insurance institute in South Carolina in 2018, Womble, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, was an assistant professor of civil engineering at West Texas A&M University, where he directed its wind hazards engineering research program. Texas Tech University, South Plains College, and others institutes also benefited from his instruction in wind engineering, logic, mathematics, engineering mechanics, and physics. He worked in professional practice as well – as a structural engineer, consulting wind engineer, and expert witness for windstorm damage litigation.

His research took in aerodynamics of structures (and severe wind effects), forensic wind engineering, and the use of remote-sensing technologies for windstorm damage assessment. During his tenure at WTAMU Womble received the National Science Foundation Career Award for his study on tornado effects on the built and natural environments via remote-sensing technologies. 

After those early complex structures made from empty boxes and wood, Womble’s teen years saw him working at his father’s construction business, and soon he was obtaining his three degrees, his doctorate coming from Texas Tech University. He began his career testing models of buildings in a wind tunnel at CPP in Fort Collins, Colorado, and, still at a relatively young age, was testing life-sized buildings in a test chamber at IBHS when he became ill.

Womble chaired the Remote Sensing Subcommittee of the ASCE Tornado Speed Estimation Standards Committee. He was a member of the American Association for Wind Engineering, Structural Engineers Association of Texas, and the ASCE Technical Council on Structural Wind Engineering. His professional engineer licenses were in Colorado and Mississippi.

Rounding out his life was his passion for sacred music and eternal truths. Womble sang, played the piano and enjoyed being of service to others. His time as a student at Tyndale Theological Seminary and the Ezekiel School of Church Music informed a devotion to religion and to his family. Following his senior year of high school he toured Europe with a choir and, whenever he could, he combined these pursuits with other hobbies such as photography and genealogy research.