The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000

Book Reviews

Born the sons of a Belton, Texas, merchant, the Brown brothers got their start
in 1914 building country roads in Central Texas. Herman, the older brother,
was "the bulldozer"(p. xi), willing to take risks, powerful and staunchly anti-
Union. Younger brother George was university-trained in engineering, and
skilled in the art of salesmanship and consensus building. Together they made
an unbeatable team whose careers skillfully rode, and profited from, the waves
of change that swept the nation in the twentieth century.
Just as Texas became less provincial and more dependent on the Federal gov-
ernment for economic sustenance, the Brown brothers went from courting
county commissioners for road contracts, to courting national politicians for fed-
eral contracts in the New Deal era, World War II, and after. The Marshall Ford
Dam on the Colorado River in 1936 was their first big federal project but many
followed. Diversification after the war spelled success. Pipelines, oil, road and
bridge construction, as well as massive government projects to include NASA's
space center in Houston and military base construction in Vietnam all made up
their portfolio. By the 196os Brown & Root was consistently ranked as one of the
nation's largest engineering and construction firms.
Although highlighting their business acumen, the authors do not ignore the
Browns' political involvement. In the final analysis, their political connections are
excused, the authors insisting that they operated in a time when mutually benefi-
cial relationships between politicians and businessmen were an accepted part of
the political landscape. This book also makes it clear that their success was a result
of their quality work and efficiency fully as much as their ties to leading politicians.
Well-deserved attention to the Brown's generous philanthropic endeavors is
included. By 1983, the Brown Foundation ranked thirty-fifth in size of the
nation's twenty-two thousand independent foundations. George, especially,
made civic activity and charitable giving his trademark, with Rice University
being a favorite recipient of his time and donations. Indeed, George R. Brown
became a central figure in the transition of Rice, from a technically oriented
'institute' to a first rate 'university.' This included taking a leading role in deseg-
regating the school in 1964.
This book is clearly written, well researched and certainly appropriate reading
for historians of twentieth-century Texas and the U.S. It also gives appropriate
recognition to two Texas businessmen who made a significant contribution to
building the commercial and industrial infrastructure of Texas, and reinvested a
generous portion of their profits into building a better society.
Texas Tech University FRED H. ALLISON
The Royal Road--El Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Photographs by
Christine Preston. Text by Douglas Preston and Jose Antonio Esquibel.
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998. Pp. ix+178. Illustra-
tions, acknowledgments, bibliography. ISBN o8263-1936-X. $26.95, paper.)
Last year marked the four hundredth anniversary of Juan de Oiiate's coloniz-
ing expedition to New Mexico. It was a tough year for him. His equestrian statue

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed April 17, 2014.