Walker R. Young
Rollo Young joined the Bureau of Reclamation in 1911. He obtained his
degree from the University of Idaho in 1908 where he majored in
engineering. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and
served as student body president in his senior year. He also played
in the military band and was captain of the basketball team. Upon
completion of the Hoover Dam Young was presented with an honorary Doctor
of Engineering degree from the University of Idaho.
Young, in his position as assistant engineer in charge of design and inspection, worked for four years on the construction of the Arrowrock Dam in Boise. At that time, Arrowrock was the highest dam in the world. He then returned to Denver where he remained at the Bureau office until selected to spearhead the study of a possible dam in Boulder Canyon on the Colorado River. In 1921 he led a team of 58 men who were responsible for studying the feasibility of a dam site in either Boulder or Black Canyon. Each day his team would take flat-bottomed boats to the various work sites for surveying and drilling rock cores and gathering other critical information. After completing the work in Boulder Canyon, the party moved downstream to Black Canyon in search of a more ideal site for a dam. By 1924 the project was completed and a detailed report submitted to the Secretary of the Interior. Eventually it was determined that Black Canyon was the better site for a dam. After demonstrating his capabilities in supervising other reclamation projects, he was assigned to be engineer in charge of the Boulder Canyon Project. This position included supervision of all construction, the contractors, and Boulder City.
The Boulder Canyon Project was approved by Congress in 1930, and Walker Young was selected as a construction engineer. Young eagerly took on the assignment and insisted that every detail of the project be accomplished according to the plans. This would sometimes place him in conflict with "Hurry Up" Frank Crowe, the construction superintendent who dubbed Young the "Great Delayer."
After completion of the dam, and its obvious success, it was assumed that Young would eventually head the reclamation bureau. However, Young did not get the nod from the government in 1936 when Elwood Mead (the commissioner at that time) died. The head position went to John C. Page instead. Some believe that this was a political choice since the Democrats moved into the White House in 1932, and Young was a Republican. Walker Young moved on to other projects and between 1935 and 1940 he was construction engineer and then supervising engineer for the Central Valley Project in California. He rose to the rank of Chief Engineer before his retirement in in 1948 at the age of 63. After retirement he became president of the Thompson Pipe and Steel Company. He died in a California nursing home in 1982 at the ripe old age of 97.