ALUMNI: John Whitcombe

DHS alumnus John Whitcombe build his first house at age 17 and started Tandem Properties with his two partners. (Courtesy photo: J. Whitcombe)

By Maddie Spangler, Staff–

When he was just 17 and a recent graduate from Davis High, John Whitcombe built his first house. It took him 11 months and a lot of borrowed money, but he sold it the day he finished building it. Since that first house, Whitcombe has dedicated his life to building and developing residential properties in the city of Davis.

Whitcombe graduated from DHS in 1958, with only 92 kids in his senior class.

“It was a totally different scene than it is now,” he said. “The most important thing in your life was your car.”

After graduating, Whitcombe went straight to work as an apprentice carpenter. He soon became a custom builder, building and designing homes for customers, and expanded from there.

Despite his initial success building a house, his father felt that it was still necessary for Whitcombe to go to college. Whitcombe graduated from UC Davis and went on to Harvard Business School.

With the new knowledge he gained at Harvard, Whitcombe returned to California and continued doing what he knew he was good at: building and renting properties. He and his two partners, Bill Roe and Paul Makley, formed Tandem Properties, a business based in Davis that would become hugely successful.

Tandem Properties is Whitcombe’s main project, but he has many hobbies on the side.

“I have a very well rounded life,” Whitcombe said.

In his spare time Whitcombe hunts birds and bigger game like elk and deer.

“When I go hunting with John, I always learn something new that I never knew before about calling ducks or tracking other kinds of animals,” said Anthony Costello, a friend of Whitcombe.

Whitcombe also has his own small farm where he grows food. He keeps some for himself and gives the rest to the food bank.

Whitcombe dreams of starting a school program in Davis that would teach students how to build a house, sell it and keep on going; he thinks a hands-on class like that could be popular.

“I grew up working with my hands, and I believe the value of being able to do things with your hands is increasing,” Whitcombe said.

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