James D. Pitcock, Jr., the chief executive officer of Texas-based Williams Brothers Construction Company for 60 years, and Horatio S. Earle, a former Michigan highway commissioner who led the good roads movement at the turn of the 20th century, are the 2014 inductees to the ARTBA Foundation’s “Transportation Development Hall of Fame.”
Launched in 2010, the Hall honors individuals or families from the public and private sectors who have made extraordinary contributions to U.S. transportation development during their careers.
Once called a “gentle persuader” by “Engineering News-Record” magazine, Pitcock’s impacts as a transportation construction industry are profound. He was one of the founders of Williams Brothers Construction Company in 1955. As chief executive officer since 1955, Pitcock continues to drive the strategy that has made Williams Brothers one of the largest and most successful highway/heavy construction firms in the U.S.
Pitcock has been a powerful advocate for increased highway funding at the federal and state levels and the use of innovative financing for highways. His volunteer leadership positions span decades. In 1976, he was appointed to the National Transportation Policy Study Commission by President Gerald Ford. Beyond his many years of service to the ARTBA board, Pitcock was elected national president of Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, twice elected president of AGC of Texas, co-chaired the AASHTO-AGC-ARTBA Joint Committee, served as chairman of the Houston Chamber of Commerce transportation committee, and was named a permanent member of the Executive Committee for the Texas Good Roads and Transportation Authority.
Over many years, Pitcock has been a major financial supporter of the programs administered by ARTBA’s Transportation Development Foundation, and the association’s “Transportation Makes America Work” campaign—the industry’s only comprehensive communications and grassroots advocacy programs aimed at boosting federal surface transportation investment.
The second inductee, Horatio Earle was a pioneer for the “good roads” movement in Michigan and nationally. Earle began the quest for good roads in Michigan, even before the automobile age. He organized the first International Good Roads Conference in 1900 and provided a demonstration of “modern” road building techniques in Port Huron. Earle, appointed the state’s commissioner of highways in 1902, tirelessly promoted state-aid for roads and authored the first state-aid road law.
He burst on to the national stage when he was the first to propose a national network of interstate highways in late 1901. In February 1902, he formed the American Road Makers (today’s ARTBA) to push for federal legislation to create a “Capital Connecting Government Highway,” which he said, would connect “every state capital with every other state capital, and every capital with the United States Capital, Washington.”
Earle’s vision was fulfilled with the 1956 law signed by President Dwight Eisenhower authorizing the Interstate Highway System and creating Highway Trust Fund to finance its construction.