Remembering Neil Pruitt

R. Neil Pruitt, who established Freese and Nichols’ architecture group and helped the firm diversify work beyond water, died Sept. 11 at the age of 84.

Neil worked for Freese and Nichols as a subconsultant before officially joining the firm in the 1980s and retiring in 2000. He was the firm’s first architect and later became the first architect shareholder. He was a licensed architect in Texas since 1965 and a member of the American Institute of Architects.

The architecture group excelled under Neil’s leadership and won two five-year IDIQ contracts with the Federal Aviation Administration Southwest Region, in 1985-90 and 1991-96. Among the team’s aviation projects were three navigational aids known as DVORs, which were the first of their kind in the United States, as well as air traffic control towers, DFW TRACON expansion, FAA regional office, parking garages and a childcare center.

His other projects include designing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Freshwater Fisheries Visitors Center and Hatchery in Athens and rehabilitating Harris Methodist Health System office towers in west Fort Worth and Arlington.

“He was a nuts and bolts architect – always one of the most technically focused architects I’ve ever seen,” Facilities Practice Leader Alfred Vidaurri said. “He would write specifications for all of his projects, and he was a tremendously detail oriented. From code reviews to QA/QC, he could spot issues and construction problems long before ever being built.”

Three of the architects Neil hired were Alfred, Joel Werland and Parris Jones​, who he also mentored.

“At the end of the day, he was kind of a quiet, humble and passionate leader,” Alfred said. “If Neil’s working on a project, you knew you were in good hands.”

In 2008, Freese and Nichols opened a conference room in his honor on the Fort Worth office’s fifth floor next to the architecture area.

Program Management Group Manager Jeff Hammond said Neil was like an unofficial godparent to him and a long-time friend to his family, who vacationed together.

“He was a lot of fun growing up, and he didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Jeff said. “Many fond memories. He was a great man.”

Neil was born on Aug. 20, 1935, in Lamesa, Texas, to Rufus and Berma Gray Pruitt. He married Nina Fryar on Aug. 4, 1956, in Big Spring, Texas. He served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1961.

He is survived by his wife, Nina Fryar Pruitt; daughter and spouse, Clare and Dave Davenport; two grandsons and spouse, Ryan and Kadie Davenport and Trey Davenport; two great-grandchildren, Gage and Drew Davenport; and sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and Bob Tarleton.

As Neil requested, he will be cremated with a Celebration of Life at a later date. 

Instead of flowers, the family asked that memorials be given in his memory to Hill Country Memorial Hospital, Fredericksburg United Methodist Church, Good Samaritan Center or to the charity of your choice.

Freese and Nichols is making a donation to the Hill Country Memorial Hospital in his honor.​