Brown, Herman (1892–1962)

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: January 8, 2020

Herman Brown, business founder and executive, was born in Belton, Texas, on November 10, 1892, the son of Riney Louis and Lucy Wilson (King) Brown. His Texas roots went back two generations to 1839; his mother's grandfather, Hugh B. King, and his mother's father, Rufus Y. King, were county judges of Milam and Lee counties, respectively. After studying briefly at the University of Texas in 1911, Brown was employed by a contractor in Belton. In 1914 he was given eighteen mules in lieu of back wages and went into the construction business. In 1919 his brother-in-law, Dan Root, advanced him money for working capital, and the company was named Brown and Root, Incorporated. In 1922 Herman's younger brother, George Rufus Brown, joined the firm. Dan Root, a prosperous Central Texas cotton farmer, died in 1929. The paving of dirt roads and building of steel bridges for municipal and county governments in Central Texas led the firm to a successful joint bid in 1936 to construct the Marshall Ford Dam (now Mansfield Dam) on the Colorado River. A 1940 contract to construct the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station was the first of their big federal war projects. The brothers formed the Brown Shipbuilding Company in 1942 and constructed more than 350 vessels for the navy. The shipyard had a labor force of 25,000 and won the Army-Navy E and a presidential citation. After World War II the Brown brothers and other investors purchased the Big and Little Inch pipelines from the government with the winning high bid of $143 million and organized a new company, Texas Eastern Transmission Company, which is now a part of Panhandle Eastern Corporation. Brown and Root was widely known during the 1950s and 1960s for constructing United States air and naval bases (in Spain, France, and Guam) and roads, dams, bridges, petrochemical plants, and large offshore drilling platforms. In 1961 the company won the planning contract for the $200 million Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. In December 1962 the Halliburton Company of Dallas purchased Brown and Root, which continues to operate under its own name. In 1917 Brown married Margarett Root; they later adopted two children. Brown died on November 15, 1962, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston. Margarett Root Brown died on January 25, 1963, and is buried by his side. Brown was a cofounder of the Brown Foundation. He was a member of the board of directors of First City National Bank of Houston, Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, Southwestern University, Armco Steel Corporation, and Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. He was also active in oil and gas exploration and ranching.

Houston Chronicle, November 16, 1962. Houston Post, November 16, 1962.

Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Anonymous, “Brown, Herman,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 19, 2022,

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January 8, 2020

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