Samuel B. Morris


Samuel B. Morris

Consulting Civil Engineer – Municipal Engineer – Environmental Engineer

National Resources – Dams – Public Works – Regional Planning – Water Control

Twenty-fourth National Honor Member Nominated by the University of Southern California Chapter

A true gentleman and a truly gentle man, widely read and broadly educated, an ideal professional engineer – these are the attributes that characterized Samuel Brooks Morris. He was genuinely respected for his engineering knowledge, rigid moral standards, practical approach to technological problems, and the spontaneous trust and affection that he inspired in his wide contacts with people. He was of German ancestry, a vestryman in the Episcopal Church, and politically a Republican.

His birthdate was August 24, 1890, at Los Angeles, California. When he was thirteen years old, he entered Throop Polytechnic Institute, (a technical high school in Pasadena, which later became the California Institute of Technology) after which he entered Leland Stanford University and graduated with the degree of bachelor of arts (AB) in civil engineering, in 1911. From then to the end of his life, his career traces fifty-one years of dedicated labor and solid achievement in his chosen profession.

Right after graduation, he spent a year as field engineer for the North Pasadena (California) Land and Water Company. He then moved to the Pasadena Water Department as assistant engineer (1912-13), superintendent (1913-25), and general manager (1925-35) for the next twenty-one years. Prominent among the many water-control structures designed and built by the department during that time was a water supply dam constructed (1932-34) across the San Gabriel River, 328 feet high and 780 feet long, containing more than a half-million cubic yards of concrete. When President Herbert Hoover dedicated the dam in 1934, he named it the Morris Dam in honor of Samuel Brooks Morris. The dam and reservoir have become parts of the distribution system of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The year 1935 marked the beginning of Sam Morris’s contribution to the engineering education, when he became professor of civil engineering and executive head of the Civil Engineering Department at Leland Stanford University. From 1936 to 1944, he was Dean of the School of Engineering.

In 1944, he moved his family from Palo Alto to Los Angeles, where he made his home the remainder of his life, serving first as general manager and chief engineer in the Department of Water and Power, City of Los Angeles, until 1955. At this time, the department was serving more than two million people. Thereafter, he devoted his entire time to his consulting practice, which included among clients, agencies of the United States, the State of California, cities, districts, water companies, and foreign governments.

He was a water consultant to the National Resources Planning Board (1936-44); the Colorado River Board representing California (1937-62); the Committee on Sanitary Engineering and Environment of the National Research Council (1949-52); the President’s Water Resources Policy Committee (1950-51); a panel of experts on the impact of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (1955-56) reporting to the United States Congress; the U.S. Delegation, Congress on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, held at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1959; and the California State Water Commission (vice-president). He was also a member of the Economic Advisory Board for the Ramparts Dam Project on the Yukon River in Alaska. From March, 1961, to the end of his life, he served on the advisory council of the Statewide Water Resources Center, University of California.

As a consultant, he served (in addition to the Pasadena Water Supply Department) the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (1937); the Zone Construction Quartermaster, U.S. War Department (1941); the Bonneville Power Administration (1941-44); the City of San Diego (1943-44); the Management War Training Program, U.S. Office of Education (Regional Advisor in Engineering and Science (1940-44)); Department of Water Resources, State of California (1956-62); and Corps of Engineers, Department of the Army (1956-62). He also served as consultant to the government of Pakistan.

A dozen or more technical societies learned that Sam Morris took his membership in each one seriously, and he contributed his gest efforts to their several programs. The American Society of Civil Engineers knew him as president of both the Los Angeles Section (1925) and the San Francisco Section (1943). He was a national director of ASCE (1954-56), vice-president (1958-59, and was elected to honorary membership in 1961. The American Water Works Association knew him as president of its California Section, national president (1943-44), and AWWA bestowed upon him its Diven Medal in 1933, honorary membership in 1951, and the Fuller Award in 1952.

He was honorary member of Chapter No. 1, American Right-of-Way Association; director (1947-51) and president (1949-51) of the American Public Power Association; director and vice-president (1936-41) of the Seismological Society of America; and vice-president (1949-50) of the Earthquake Engineering Research Association. For a long period, he was a director or alternate director of Engineers Joint Council. He held membership in the Newcomen Society (England) and served on the executive committee of the United States committee (1938-58). Sam Morris also served as a member of the American Executive Committee of the Commission on High Dams of the World Power Conference.

He presented many papers and articles before technical societies and his name appeared often in the periodicals of engineering societies. In 1953, he received the honorary degree of doctor of laws (LL.D.) from the University of California. Sigma Xi and Tau Beta Pi fraternities elected him to membership.

Among his many citations and honors, his membership in Chi Epsilon gave him great pleasure. The University of Southern California chapter elected him as a Chapter Honor Member. Subsequently, the Supreme Council selected him from among several nominees, notifying him of his election in October, 1961. A ceremony to celebrate the elevation was planned as part of the Fraternity’s Fortieth Anniversary Conclave in Urbana, Illinois, February 23, 1962, and Mr. Morris had made all necessary plans to attend. A severe illness prevented his attendance, and it was hoped to postpone the celebration until a special meeting could be arranged in Los Angeles; but Samuel Brooks Morris, twenty-fourth National Honor Member of Chi Epsilon, died at Los Angeles on March 6, 1962.

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