Published by H-Business@w3needs.com (March 1999)
BUILDERS: HERMAN AND GEORGE R. BROWN. By
Joseph A. Pratt & Christopher J.
Castaneda. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.
Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $36.95.)
Reviewed for H-Business by Paul Carlson, Department of History, Texas Tech
Brothers Herman and George R. Brown turned their building company, Brown &
Root, into one of the largest and most successful engineering and construction
operations in the world. They were Texans (from Belton) and their company came
to possess the myth
and character of Texas–it was big and bold.
Started in 1919 by Herman (1892-1962) with a loan from his brother-in-law Dan
Root, the company struggled at first. George (1889-1983) joined the company in
1922, and they graded and surfaced roads. Dynamic growth came in the 1930s
Depression years when they won a contract for constructing a large dam across
the Colorado River in Central Texas, and during World War II the company burst
onto the national scene. After the war, the brothers took their operations
overseas, and in the 1950s they were wealthy and their company enjoyed national
After Herman died in 1962, George sold Brown & Root to Halliburton Company.
However, the Brown Foundation, established by the brothers some years earlier,
on philanthropic activities of all kinds.
This dual biography, crisply written and refreshingly direct, is well done.
It is largely uncritical business history. The Browns were big thinkers who
took on ambitious projects, and, at least as related here,
they succeeded at making money–money they poured into charitable projects and
into politics. They were conservative Democrats who were sometimes willing to
bend the rules of fair political contributions to support conservative business
a book of substance, and typical of the many new books coming from Texas A&M
University Press, it is attractively designed and handsomely packaged.