Thompson, Robert Andrew (1869–1941)

By: John D. Thompson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

Robert Andrew Thompson, railroad and state highway engineer, son of Andrew Jackson and Mary Anna (Gillespie) Thompson, was born on July 11, 1869, in New Waverly, Texas. He attended the University of Texas, where he received a B.S. in 1892, an M.A. in 1893, and a civil engineering degree in 1900. In 1893–94 and 1897–98 he was employed at the university as instructor of civil engineering. On December 21, 1897, he married Evelyne Dickson. They had seven children. Thompson began his career as draftsman and assistant engineer on the construction of the Kansas City Southern Railway in Texas and Louisiana between bouts of instruction at the University of Texas. He served as chief engineer of the Railroad Commission from 1898 to 1908. From 1908 to 1911 he worked as the chief engineer of the Wichita Falls and Northwest railroad, in charge of locating and constructing 300 miles of track. Then he left Texas to serve as chief engineer of the California Railroad Commission from 1911 to 1913. In 1913 Thompson remained in San Francisco to serve on the engineering board of the Interstate Commerce Commission. During World War I he was a member of the engineering board for railroad evaluation. While serving as a board member for railroad valuation, he helped with the inventory of 56,000 miles of track west of the Mississippi River. During the 1920s he was chief engineer and general manager of the Wichita County Water Improvement District, in which position he supervised the construction of two dams, including that for Lake Kemp, and an irrigation system for 40,000 acres. On the construction of the Garza Dam he served as chief engineer, along with James C. Nagle, from 1923 to 1927. After completion of the dam Thompson continued his work as an engineer and served as chief engineer for the Texas Highway Department from 1927 to 1928 and highway engineer for the Dallas Chamber of Commerce from 1928 to 1933 and 1934 to 1938. Between his sessions of work for the Chamber of Commerce he was employed as state engineer for the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works. On May 30, 1941, Thompson died in Fort Worth after a fall in which his thigh was fractured. He belonged to a number of organizations including the American Society for Civil Engineers, Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, and Kappa Sigma. He supported the Democratic party and attended the Presbyterian Church.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who Was Who in America, Vol. I.
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era

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

John D. Thompson, “Thompson, Robert Andrew,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995