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Milburn was born in Frankfort KY, the son of architect Frank P. and Leonora (Little) Milburn. The senior Milburn was appointed Architect for the Southern Railway. For this job, they relocated to Washington DC in 1908.

Milburn received his early school training in the public schools of Washington, and prepared for college at the Phillips Andover Academy. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina in 1914. Afterwards, he attended architectural courses at the University of Pennsylvania before joining his father in business, Milburn and Heister, in Washington. After service in WWI, Milburn came to Durham to supervise local projects (such as the Carolina Theatre, Durham County Courthouse, and Union Station) for Milburn & Heister. He became quite taken with the area (largely due to falling in love with the daughter of an American Tobacco executive, Mary J. O’Brien). They wed in 1920.

The Milburns had one daughter named Mary Jo. In 1925, Thomas Milburn became the firm’s president and treasurer and eventually chairman. Throughout his life, Thomas Milburn was associated with the Free and Accepted Masons, Scottish Rite, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Milburn worked hard to attract new industry to Durham and was instrumental in putting together Research Triangle Park with Governor Luther Hodges. He retired in 1962.

1950 - The Thomas Y. Milburn House, a somewhat Modernist house at 1028 Sycamore Street, Durham. Sold to Marjorie L. Williams in 1964. Had a brick first floor, vertical wood siding on the upper story, and a center 3-bay recessed porch. Sold in 2012 to Emily C. and John Yeatts.

Sources include: New York Times, Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, by Jean Bradley Anderson, Milburn Archive at NCSU Special Collections.