Francis C. Turner


2016 Class

Francis C. Turner (1908-1999)
In 1994, American Heritage magazine named him one of 10 people who, although unknown to the general public, had changed life for all in America. Others called him one of the “fathers” of the U.S. Interstate Highway System.

Much of his 50-year career in public service focused on big projects and big ideas, and his work produced big results.
Frank Turner first joined the federal Bureau of Public Roads in 1929. In 1943, he was chosen to expedite completion of the Alaska Highway. In 1950, he was named coordinator of the Inter-American highway and projects in other countries.

When President Eisenhower appointed the Clay Committee to plan the Interstates, Turner became the body’s executive secretary. He helped lead the committee’s work and was the liaison between the Bureau and Congress as it wrote the 1956 law authorizing the Interstate system.

With Interstate construction underway, Turner worked from 1957-69 as deputy commissioner of public roads, chief engineer and director of public roads to resolve disputes and keep the program moving forward. In 1969, he was appointed Federal Highway Administrator, the only holder of that position to come up through the ranks. He held the post until his retirement in June 1972.

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