Morris Luther Shadburn, who became a leading highway official both within his native state of Georgia and on the national level, was born on February 4, 1897, in the Atlanta-area city of Buford. In 1917, he graduated from the Georgia School of Technology (now the Georgia Institute of Technology) with a B.S. in civil engineering.
Shadburn subsequently entered the U.S. Army and, during World War I, served in France with the 26th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). He was cited by General John J. Pershing, who led the AEF, for meritorious service at the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918 near the Marne River in France. That same year, Shadburn was similarly recognized for his military service with a War Cross presented by King Albert I of Belgium.
After being discharged from the U.S. Army, Shadburn ran the Georgia Institute of Technology’s highway materials laboratory for several months. He then began working at the Georgia Highway Department (GHD), which is now the Georgia Department of Transportation. Shadburn was division engineer for GHD when he resigned in 1923 to serve as a consulting engineer in Louisiana. Shadburn’s efforts in that position included building a dock on the Mississippi River and working on sanitary and storm sewers. In addition, he spent a few years in Gulfport, Mississippi, engaged in such tasks as sea wall activities.
Shadburn joined the Georgia-based Penn-Dixie Cement Corporation in 1930 as a field engineer. He found himself back at GHD in 1933 and became state highway engineer in 1941. In 1943, he resigned from that position to work for the construction firm Sam E. Finley, Inc., as engineer and general superintendent for asphalt paving projects. Shadburn returned to GHD in November 1948 to again serve as state highway engineer.
Even as he led Georgia’s post-World War II highway construction efforts, Shadburn found time to serve in other professional activities that focused on road priorities not just within his home state but beyond it. These activities included serving as a member of both the Traffic Operations Subcommittee of the President’s Committee for Traffic Safety and the Department of Traffic and Operations of the Highway Research Board; director of the American Road Builders Association; and president of the Southeastern Association of State Highway Officials.
Shadburn likewise became heavily involved in the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), which is now the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He was a member of the association’s Executive Committee and chairman of the Committee on Traffic. Shadburn also represented AASHO on the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances. In addition, he served on such other association groups as the Special Committee on Signing and Marking the Interstate System, Committee on Emergency Planning, Committee on Administration, and Special Committee on Project Procedures.
After serving as AASHO vice president, Shadburn became the 53rd president of the association at its annual meeting in Atlanta in December 1964. He assumed the presidency just as AASHO was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its establishment. Shadburn’s term as president also took place at an important time for road-building priorities nationwide. DeWitt C. Greer, who served as longtime state highway engineer for the Texas Highway Department, would later say that Shadburn “gave us the great leadership we so badly needed at that particular time.”
A key priority during Shadburn’s tenure as president involved construction of the Interstate Highway System. A substantial amount of progress had been made in building the highways for that network by the time Shadburn became president, but a lot remained to be done.
“As we review the accomplishments of the Highway Departments in the 51st year of AASHO, we may be proud of the progress being made by the Bureau of Public Roads and States in the greatest Road Program of the Ages,” proclaimed Shadburn at the end of his term as president at the association’s annual meeting in New York City in October 1965. In that address, however, he also emphasized ever-growing needs for that highways network that demanded AASHO’s increased attention and involvement – including a review of air rights over those routes, how to better control litter, the location and maintenance of rest areas, and traffic safety measures to red
Another association milestone during Shadburn’s presidential term was the establishment of the AASHO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL) as a Research Associate Program at the National Bureau of Standards — now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology — in what became a major step in the standardization of construction materials across the nation. (AMRL changed its name to AASHTO re:source in 2016.)
In 1967, Shadburn was the recipient of AASHO’s Thomas H. MacDonald Award in recognition of his achievements in highway administration, engineering, and research. He was given this award at that year’s AASHO annual meeting in Salt Lake City. AASHO Executive Director Alfred E. Johnson noted when presenting Shadburn with the award, “In reviewing his work in AASHO, you will see that he is another of those very busy people who does an excellent job of handling his State highway department duties and still finds time to work on matters of National importance.”
Shadburn stepped down as Georgia’s state highway engineer at the start of the following year, and went on to become executive director of the then-new Georgia Crushed Stone Association. He died at his home in Atlanta on December 19, 1970, at the age of 73.
For more information on Morris L. Shadburn, please check out a 1965 biography of him at Morris L. Shadburn – Biography
Additional information on the history of both the Georgia Highway Department and Georgia Department of Transportation is available at http://www.dot.ga.gov/AboutGDOT/gdotcentennial/Timeline