Francis C. Turner Collection

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Francis C. Turner Collection


  • 1929-1997 (Creation)


13 Boxes

Name of creator

Biographical history

Francis C. Turner (1908-1999) was born in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from Texas A & M University in 1929 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He worked as a highway engineer for the Bureau of Public Roads, earning a professional degree in civil engineering from Texas A & M University in 1940 as well. As a highway engineer, he was selected to work on the Alaska Highway Project in 1943. From 1946 until 1949 he helped restore roads and organize a highway department in the Philippines, serving as coordinator of the Philippine Rehabilitation Program by 1949. Upon his return to the United States, he became Assistant to Bureau of Public Roads Chief Thomas H. McDonald.

In 1954 Turner was appointed Executive Secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Advisory Committee on a National Highway Program . Turner's work on the President's Committee on a National Highway Program , or Clay Committee, (so-called after its Chair, General Lucius D. Clay), is widely acknowledged as being instrumental in the passage of the highway legislation that established and provided for the funding of a national interstate highway system.

Turner continued to work for the Bureau of Public Roads and its successor, the Federal Highway Administration, for the rest of his career, and ultimately headed these organizations. In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Turner as Director of the Bureau of Public Roads, an occasion Johnson may have commemorated by giving Turner a copy of his book A More Beautiful America inscribed "To Frank Turner, with great expectations." (The book is included in Series 1. of the Papers and cataloged separately. See Items Separated section in this finding aid.) later, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Turner as Federal Highway Administrator in 1969.

Although Turner retired from his post as Federal Highway Administrator in 1972, he remained active in the service of the highway program for the rest of his life. He was influential in transportation circles, continuing his life-long membership in numerous industry associations such as the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. A member of an elite circle of transportation experts known as the "No Name Group" or "No Name Committee", he was also in constant demand as a consultant by agencies such as the Transportation Research Board and the International Road Federation. Perpetually researching issues relating to the transportation field, he remained a champion of highway causes until his death in 1999.

Over the course of his life, Turner received numerous awards, beginning with membership in the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1951. He was named a distinguished alumnus by Texas A & M University in 1969. The American Society of Civil Engineers honored him with the James Laurie Prize in 1971 and created the Francis C. Turner Lecture Series in 1989. In 1998, the Transporatation Research Board established the Frank Turner Medal for lifetime achievement in the field of transportation. Turner died in a Goldsboro, North Carolina hospice facility in 1999.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection represents 68 years of materials authored or collected by Turner. Series 1. through Series 4. include highway engineering reports written for the Bureau of Public Roads, Clay Committee papers dating from the 1950s hearings on the development of a national interstate highway program, and speeches, publications, correspondence, and research notes generated by his career as a federal highway official. The aforementioned inscribed copy of A More Beautiful America by Lyndon Baines Johnson is is included in this material.

Upon his retirement, Turner became a transportation consultant, advising local, national, and international agencies, associations, and companies on transportation issues. The bulk of these post-retirement and consulting materials are found in Series 5 through Series 9. These materials include maps, photographs, research notes and manuscript drafts for a three-year study he and Harmer E. Davis conducted for the International Road Federation. The study, published in 1977 and titled A Comparative Analysis of Urban Transportation Requirements, compares transportation needs in urban areas in fourteen countries, including the United States.

Another large portion of the papers found in Series 7. contains papers related to Turner's membership in various associations. Throughout his lifetime Turner remained devoted to groups such as the Highway Users Federation and the American Association of State Highway Officials. Correspondence, speeches, and conference notes related to these associations reflect his continued involvement in the transportation field almost until the year of his death.

The collection also includes correspondence, transcripts, and drafts of several reports recording the history of the interstate highway, a subject for which Turner was a popular informant. The most extensive project is a study by the Public Works Historical Society, commissioned by the American Public Works Association and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged chronologically, roughly following the career of the creator. The arrangement of each series is noted in the detailed description of the papers.

  • Series 1, Bureau of Public Roads, 1929-1995
  • Subseries 1, Alaska Highway, 1943-1945
  • Subseries 2, Philippine Program, 1949-1950
  • Series 2, Clay Committee, 1951-1959
  • Subseries 1, Associations, 1954-1959
  • Subseries 2, Subject Files, 1951-1956
  • Subseries 3, Hearings, 1953-1958
  • Series 3, Federal Highway Administration, 1969-1972
  • Series 4, Speeches and Publications, 1947-1974
  • Series 5, Transportation Issues and Legislation, 1963-1994
  • Series 6, Awards, 1971-1997
  • Series 7, Associations, 1960-1995
  • Series 8, Consulting Work, 1972-1997
  • Series 9, Interstate History Projects, 1967-1989

Separated Materials include:

Series 1
1/25, A More Beautiful America by Lyndon B. Johnson. Cataloged and housed separately in stacks with call number: TAMU E 169.02 J63 1965

Series 1.1
2/12, Alaska Highway News, January 14, 1945. Oversize item.

Series 1.2
2/27, "Philippine Road Inventory" Oversize item.
2/29, Photograph of Quirino Bridge (Philippines). Oversize item.

Series 8
12/26, Seminario de Ingeniería de Tránsito. Cataloged and housed separately in stacks with call number: TAMU HE359 .M6 S45 6 (1974) VI

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Physical access

These materials are stored offsite and require additional time for retrieval.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Series 2. Clay Committee materials were transferred from the Department of Transportation Library to the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives by Lee Mertz at Turner's request in 1989. The rest of the collection was transferred from the Texas Transportation Institute to the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives by Gene Hawkins in 1997.


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Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Agronomy Road. All rights reserved.

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