From 1934 to 1936 Hemphill was headquartered in Columbia, where he supervised several New Deal projects, among them the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in which he produced measured drawings of Robert Mills’s Ainsley Hall House.
Architect. Hemphill was born in Abbeville, the son of state senator Robert Reid Hemphill and Eugenia Cornelia Taylor. He attended the College of Charleston for two years before relocating to Boston. He resumed his studies in architecture at Harvard University Summer School and the Boston Architectural Club. Following his education, he worked for a year in Thomas A. Edison’s West Orange, New Jersey, laboratory, then as a draftsman for both Warren & Smith of Boston, and Lockwood, Greene & Company of Boston and Greenville, South Carolina. Returning to Abbeville by 1915, he practiced there briefly before establishing an office in Greenwood in 1916 with J. Ernest Summer of Jacksonville, Florida. Together for only two years, Summer & Hemphill produced plans for, among others, Greenwood’s Carnegie Library (1916–1917) and Main Street Methodist Church (1917), the latter in association with Henry D. Harrall of Bennettsville. Most notable though was their five-story Exchange Bank of Newberry (1917).
After service in World War I, Hemphill resumed practice alone until about 1933, when the Great Depression halted all building projects. Among his most notable projects during this period were the Negro Hospital at Brewer Normal Institute in Greenwood, in association with Holmes & Von Schmid of Montclair, New Jersey, and New York City (1923); the Newberry County Hospital (1924–1925); and five Greenwood schools, including the extensive Greenwood High School (1925) in association with Wilson, Berry-man & Kennedy of Columbia (1925 and 1929). From 1934 to 1936 Hemphill was headquartered in Columbia, where he supervised several New Deal projects, among them the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in which he produced measured drawings of Robert Mills’s Ainsley Hall House. He practiced privately in Columbia from 1936 to 1943, when World War II brought him back into government service, first at Parris Island and later in Washington, D.C. After the war he reestablished his Greenwood practice, and in 1947 he brought his son, James C. Hemphill, Jr., into the firm as an associate.
Other notable designs by Hemphill in Greenwood were his Church of the Resurrection (1932), the Greenwood County Courthouse (1947), the YMCA Building (1948), Self Memorial Hospital (1949–1950), the Greenwood Post Office (1949), and the Greenwood Public Library (1957). From 1917 to 1962 Hemphill developed the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home’s campus at Greenwood and designed several buildings at the John De La Howe School near McCormick (1965–1969). In addition, he was particularly noted for his many residential designs in Greenwood, Columbia, and throughout South Carolina.
Hemphill served as president of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1946 and was honored by that body in 1966 with its Distinguished Service Award. His career had spanned more than fifty-five years when he died in Greenwood in 1970.
Wells, John E., and Robert E. Dalton. The South Carolina Architects, 1885–1935: A Biographical Directory. Richmond, Va.: New South Architectural Press, 1992.
Wilson, Charles, Samuel Lapham, and Walter F. Petty. Architectural Practice in South Carolina. Charleston, S.C., 1963.