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NORRIS, JOHN ALEXANDER

NORRIS, JOHN ALEXANDER (1877–1963). John Alexander Norris, civil engineer, was born on October 14, 1877, at Alleyton, Texas, the son of Samuel Weller and Lucy Lavinia (Davidson) Norris. He attended Baylor University from 1894 to 1897. Sometime after 1900 he was county engineer for Wharton County. He returned to Baylor in 1920 to obtain a bachelor of arts degree. He also attended the College of Engineering at the University of Texas in Austin in 1905 and took additional engineering work at UT during later years.

As one of the state's pioneer civil engineers Norris was influential in beginning development of Texas water resources. He was appointed to the Texas State Board of Water Engineers (now the Texas Water Commissionqv) in 1918 and served with that agency until 1936. He was chairman of the board during the last sixteen years of his service. Under his leadership the agency worked to protect municipal water supplies and provide for flood control and conservation. In 1929 Norris was one of those responsible for establishing the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District (see BRAZOS RIVER AUTHORITY), the first such state agency in the United States to control and develop waters of an entire river basin. He was also instrumental in establishing the Lower Colorado River Authority in 1934 and other similar water conservation and development agencies. Norris became chief engineer and general manager of the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District in 1936 and was responsible for the construction of Morris Sheppard Dam and Possum Kingdom Lake (see POSSUM KINGDOM RESERVOIR), the first dam and reservoir on the Brazos River. During later years he was in private engineering practice until his retirement. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and president of its Texas section in 1925. He also belonged to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Water Works Association. Norris worked for passage of the Texas Engineering Registration Act in 1937.

He married Jessica Bullock on October 30, 1906, in Wharton County, and they had five children. He died on March 14, 1963, in Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin History Center Files. Ellis A. Davis, and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas, 4-vol. ed. Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., The Waters of the Brazos: A History of the Brazos River Authority, 1929–1979 (Waco: Texian Press, 1981).

Seth D. Breeding

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Seth D. Breeding, "NORRIS, JOHN ALEXANDER," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fno06), accessed November 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.