Elected October 1991

Willard J. Turnbull


A native of the State of Nebraska, Willard J. Turnbull graduated from the University of Nebraska with a B.S. degree (1925) and C.E. degree (1942) in Civil Engineering.


His engineering career began in 1925 when he became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, serving in the U.S. and the Philippine Islands until 1927. In late 1927, he began work with the Nebraska State Highway Department, later serving as Field Project Engineer and Assistant State Testing Engineer. 


In 1935, he joined the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and in 1941 accepted the position of Chief of the Soils Division, U.S. Army Engineers Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS. When the Corps of Engineers was assigned the new responsibility of designing asphalt pavements for heavy aircraft and military highway loads for the armed forces in World War II, the Soils Division was selected to develop the criteria. Mr. Turnbull, as Chief, assembled the team of engineers and technicians and directed the construction of  a laboratory, as well as the subsequent laboratory and field testing of asphalt mixture designs and pavements. Analyses of the data from these activities and subsequent dissemination of their results led to the widespread acceptance of the Marshall mix design procedures known today. Investigations were also made which produced design criteria for total thickness and compaction requirements for asphalt pavements for very heavy single and multiple wheel loads. A strong proponent of dissemination of resesarch results to the field, in 1948 Mr. Turnbull led a team which presented eight papers on results of the investigations on the Marshall mix design procedures to the annual meeting of the Highway Research Board which played a large role in the adoption of Marshall mix design procedures by state highway departments. He has also authored or co-authored over 50 technical papers and in 1959 received the Norman Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineer as co-author of a paper entitled "Stabilization by Compaction."He retired from the Waterways Experiment Station in 1949 and has remained active in consulting work since that time.


He is a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; National Society of Professional Engineers; Transportation Research Board; and American Society for testing and Materials. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the States of Nebraska and Mississippi.


Among his many awards are the Distinguished Service Award, University of Nebraska, 1949; Honorary Doctorate of Engineering, University of Nebraska, 1957; Exceptional Civilian Service Award, Department of the Army, 1946, 1965; Distinguished Cililian Service Award, U.S. Department of Defense, 1965; and Engineer of the Year, Mississippi Society of Professional Engineers, 1966.