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Past APWA President, Roy W. Morse, dies

Former APWA President (1964-65) Roy W. Morse died at 96 on November 18 in Seattle, Washington. As Seattle City Engineer and Chairman of the Board of Public Works, Morse was responsible for numerous large projects, including the construction of hydroelectric and water storage dams. Under his direction, city streets were realigned for the 1962 World’s Fair, and for the construction of Interstate 5.

A Seattle native, Morse earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Washington, and later did graduate work at Harvard University. He also served in the National Guard. As a new graduate of the University of Washington, he worked at the Pitcairn Autogyro Company in Philadelphia before returning to Seattle, where he was hired as a Boeing Company engineer in 1936. He worked for Boeing until 1949, guiding the development of warplanes and commercial aircraft, including the 747. He was instrumental in the development of the prototype for the first retractable landing gear during the years he was with Boeing.

Engineering ran in Morse’s blood. In 1949 he succeeded his father, Chester W. Morse, as head of Seattle’s Water Department, and expanded on his father’s work developing watersheds and pipelines for the growing city. Morse headed the Water Department from 1949 to 1955, and the Engineering Department from 1957 to 1971.

In 1957, Morse became Seattle’s City Engineer, a post he held for 14 years. In that role, he was also Chairman of the Board of Public Works, and headed major civic projects including the permanent creation of the Seattle Center after the 1962 World’s Fair.

Morse was an Honorary Member of both APWA and ASCE, and was a strong advocate of public works history. Survivors include his wife of 73 years, Elizabeth (Beth), daughters Alice Morse Powell and Virginia Morse Bievenour, and three grandsons, Jevon K. Powell, Gregory S. Powell, and Torrey M. Bievenour.

“We have lost not only a past national president and great engineer, but also one great gentleman,” said Jack Pittus, APWA board member, who worked for Morse in the city’s Engineering Department in the late 1960s. “He is the definition of Professional Engineer in my book.”