James K. “Jim” Mitchell, an ASCE Honorary Member whose vast talents expanded soils engineering across eight different decades, from the mid-1950s until just recently, has died. He was 93.

Mitchell, P.E., Hon.M.ASCE, whose career began in 1955 as a soil engineer at the U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is the co-author of one paper currently in review for a conference to be held this year. His final contribution to geotechnical knowledge will add to a library of more than 500 journal publications, conference papers, reports, keynotes, and invited lectures. He specialized in soil properties and behavior, ground improvement, environmental geotechnics, in situ testing, and geotechnical earthquake engineering.

He spent 1956-58 as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before establishing a distinguished career at the University of California at Berkeley, eventually becoming Cahill Professor of Civil Engineering, then Cahill Professor Emeritus in 1993. Mitchell then joined the civil and environmental engineering department at Virginia Tech, retiring in 1999 as University Distinguished Professor, Emeritus. There are no records on precisely how many students he advised, but by 2001 he had graduated 74 Ph.D. students, and he advised/co-advised a few after that. The last student he co-advised completed his doctorate in 2021.

Mitchell remained active in retirement, guiding research, co-teaching courses, and presenting seminars, and at his passing was at work on a fourth edition of his seminal textbook Fundamentals of Soil Behavior. He received a B.C.E. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1951, and master’s and doctorate degrees from MIT in 1953 and 1956.

Among his plentiful honors for research and teaching were election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1976, the National Academy of Science in 1998. An array of ASCE awards include the Norman Medal in 1972 and 1995, the Middlebrooks Award five times; the H. Bolton Seed Medal and Lecture; and both the Terzaghi Lecture and Terzaghi Award. In 2022 he was designated a Geo-Legend by ASCE’s Geo-Institute as the subject of a video interview.

He also received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Berkeley Citation from the University of California, the Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement from NASA, and the 2001 Kevin Nash Gold Medal of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering.

“Jim” was regarded as a great friend and mentor to many who remained humble, never took himself too seriously despite his accomplishments, enjoyed a good laugh, and was always open to learning something new.

In Mitchell's memory and in tribute to his vast contributions, the ASCE Library and the Geo-Institute are making six of his greatest papers available free. View the James K. Mitchell Collection.