Knox Tate, Obituary


James Knox Tate IV (Knox) was born on June 22, 1944, in Lexington, VA. He was the son of James Knox Tate III, MD, of Bolivar, TN, and Helen Tolley Tate of Lexington, VA. Knox grew up in Bolivar, TN. He was an Eagle Scout and played the clarinet in the marching band. He graduated from Duke University in 1966 with a BS in civil engineering; upon graduation, he attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned into the US Navy. Knox served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1969; he then remained in the US Naval Reserves for 20 years, retiring with the rank of Commander, USNR.

Knox was a deeply creative fellow, and decided architecture was his path; he enrolled in the Architecture School at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s School of Architecture and Design, receiving a BA in Architecture. Knox then moved to North Carolina where he worked for Milton Small AIA in Raleigh and Cogwell-Hausler FAIA in Chapel Hill, as well as with JP Goforth Building Company. In 1973 he was one of several founding partners of Designworks, an architectural firm in Carrboro, NC.

In 1986 he founded J. Knox Tate IV Architect in Chapel Hill NC, focusing principally on residential design and renovation, as well as parks, playgrounds, and the occasional commercial building. While most of Knox’ work was in the Triangle, he also did projects from “Murphy to Manteo” in North Carolina, as well as in Virginia and New Mexico.

As a staunch environmentalist, Knox was deeply committed to sustainable design. Knox served on the Historic District Commission of Chapel Hill as member and president, on the Architectural Review Board of Arbor Lea, and on the board of Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a service dog training organization in Carrboro NC (now in Hillsborough). He was also a Cub Scout and Boy Scout pack leader.

Knox had such generosity of spirit and such a joyful heart. He often made anonymous financial donations to help people: to build wells, for example, or to pay medical bills. He was ready to help a friend at the drop of a hat. His big smile fell on everyone.

He loved to travel, particularly with his family. Knox spent many summers on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, hiking in Acadia National Park with his wife Stella and any children or grandchildren who could join them. He spent many summer holidays on Bald Head Island, and in Duck NC, flying kites and generally having a good time. He also loved dogs, and often took a dog to his architecture projects, so the dog of the time could make sure things were going well.

Knox loved playing basketball and watching basketball: he was a die-hard UNC fan, despite being a Dookie!

Knox was a life-long Episcopalian and a member of the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill.

Knox is survived by his wife, Stella Waugh, and three children: Knox Tate, MD (Blair), Eli Tate, MD (Erin) and Elizabeth Waugh, MSW, as well as seven grandchildren: Fletcher, Lewis, Knox Watson, Hawken, Mayer, Stella Rose, and Maeve. He is also survived by his sister, Carolyn Strickland (Cary).

Knox’s family would like to thank the staff at Carol Woods Retirement Community for such exemplary, loving and personal care to him and to his family.
As the Navy says, Fair Winds and Following Seas, Knox.

Memorial donations may be made to Eyes Ears Nose and Paws ( or to the Audubon Society (

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 23, at 2 PM at the Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, 27514.

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