Seth D. Breeding

NORRIS, JOHN ALEXANDER (1877–1963). John Alexander Norris, civil engineer, was born on October 14, 1877, at Alleyton, Texas, the son of Samuel Weller and Lucy Lavinia (Davidson) Norris. He attended Baylor University from 1894 to 1897. Sometime after 1900 he was county engineer for Wharton County. He returned to Baylor in 1920 to obtain a bachelor of arts degree. He also attended the College of Engineering at the University of Texas in Austin in 1905 and took additional engineering work at UT during later years.

As one of the state's pioneer civil engineers Norris was influential in beginning development of Texas water resources. He was appointed to the Texas State Board of Water Engineers (now the Texas Water Commission) in 1918 and served with that agency until 1936. He was chairman of the board during the last sixteen years of his service. Under his leadership the agency worked to protect municipal water supplies and provide for flood control and conservation. In 1929 Norris was one of those responsible for establishing the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District (see BRAZOS RIVER AUTHORITY), the first such state agency in the United States to control and develop waters of an entire river basin. He was also instrumental in establishing the Lower Colorado River Authority in 1934 and other similar water conservation and development agencies. Norris became chief engineer and general manager of the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District in 1936 and was responsible for the construction of Morris Sheppard Dam and Possum Kingdom Lake (see POSSUM KINGDOM RESERVOIR), the first dam and reservoir on the Brazos River. During later years he was in private engineering practice until his retirement. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and president of its Texas section in 1925. He also belonged to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Water Works Association. Norris worked for passage of the Texas Engineering Registration Act in 1937.

He married Jessica Bullock on October 30, 1906, in Wharton County, and they had five children. He died on March 14, 1963, in Austin.


Austin History Center Files. Ellis A. Davis, and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas, 4-vol. ed. Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., The Waters of the Brazos: A History of the Brazos River Authority, 1929–1979 (Waco: Texian Press, 1981).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Seth D. Breeding, "NORRIS, JOHN ALEXANDER," accessed January 18, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 29, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...