As Chief and later Commissioner of the U. S. Bureau of Public Roads, Thomas H. MacDonald became Administrator of Federal Highway Funds shortly after the beginning of Federal participation in highway affairs on a national scale. As such, he greatly influenced the formulation of national highway policies and gave skilled direction to Federal – state cooperation in highway improvement.
Mr. MacDonald was appointed Chief of the Bureau in 1919. In 1939 he became Commissioner, remaining so until his retirement in 1953. He served with the Bureau longer than any other official.
During his tenure in office, he was active in all phases of highway development. He was also instrumental in organizing the Highway Research Board. Through its Physical Research Division, he encouraged research in all highway materials, including asphalt.
As an undergraduate at Iowa State University, he became interested in highways at a time when very few showed enthusiasm for the subject. Then in 1904, for the state of Iowa, he began investigations of highways and methods for improving them. In 1907 he was appointed State Highway Engineer and in 1913, Chief Engineer. During his fifteen years with the Iowa State Highway Commission he established a statewide highway system.
A prolific writer of articles on all phases of highway improvement, he received numerous honorary awards during his illustrious career as well as an honorary chair at Texas A & M after his death in 1957.
Mr. MacDonald was born in Colorado on July 23, 1881. His parents moved to Iowa in 1884. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Iowa State College in 1904.