THOMAS HARRIS MACDONALD
1919 — 1939
Chief/Bureau of Public Roads
1939 — 1953
Commissioner/Bureau of Public Roads
Highway Engineer — Writer — Public Servant — Consultant — Research Engineer
The good roads and highways Americans travel and enjoy today are a monument to Thomas H. MacDonald, who for 34 years served as Chief of the Bureau of Public Roads and Commissioner of the Public Roads Administration.
He was affectionately known as "Chief" by all who knew and worked with him.
When Chief MacDonald came to Washington in 1919, the office he was to head was still in its infancy. The Bureau had direct supervision over highway-engineering activities and expenditures of Federal-aid funds.
The country had scarcely a quarter million miles of public roads when Chief MacDonald took office---and very little of that mileage was hard-surfaced. Few bridges were adequate to carry heavy truck traffic.
In his 34 years of service, Chief MacDonald put together an integrated system of 3 ½ million miles of interlocking hard-surfacing highways that crisscrossed America beginning with only $50 million in Federal-aid authorization.
Chief MacDonald personally directed the major steps in construction of the Alaskan Highway. He also supervised fund expenditures to aid the countries of Central America in building the Inter-American Highway.