Throughout his entire career J. E. Buchanan contributed to the asphalt industry as engineer, educator and administrator. After graduating from engineering college in 1927, J. E. Buchanan joined the Idaho Bureau of Highways as Testing Engineer. He served at the same time as an instructor in civil engineering at the University of Idaho. This combined duty extended until 1936.
From 1936 to 1938 Mr. Buchanan held the position of Research Engineer with the Asphalt Institute, Pacific Coast Division, with headquarters in San Francisco. Here he had charge of technical development work in the western states on the use of asphalt in highway, airfield and industrial construction. During this period, he did pioneer work in the paving of airfields, setting up the first airport paving instruction for engineers of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
From 1938 until 1942 he was Dean of the College of Engineering, Director of the Engineering Experiment Station, and Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Idaho.
During World War II, Mr. Buchanan served for four years, both in this country and in the China-Burma-India Theatre, as an officer with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, principally on airfield work, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and receiving the Legion of Merit. In 1946, after separation from service, he was elected President of the University of Idaho. He relinquished this post to become President of The Asphalt Institute in 1954, a position he held for 15 years until his retirement July 1, 1969.
A registered professional engineer in California and Idaho, Mr. Buchanan is a Fellow of American Society of Civil Engineers, and a Member of National Society of Professional Engineers. He served on the Idaho State Board of Engineering Examiners from its founding in 1939 to 1948.
In 1970, he was the recipient of the ARBA Award presented annually by the American Road Builders’ Association to the individual who has made an especially significant contribution to the progress of the national highway program. He has also received the annual industry recognition award of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, and the J. E. Buchanan Engineering Laboratory building was named in his honor by the University of Idaho.