Skip to main content

Jackson Leland Durkee Papers [Draft]

Identifier: SC MS 0283

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of papers of Jackson Leland Durkee, consulting bridge engineer, related to the bridges mainly in the USA. Collection includes blueprints, site plans, publications, notebooks, realia, photographs, technical reports, etc. spanning from the 1930s to 2002.


  • Creation: 1930 - 2002


Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

Son of the late civil engineer E. Leland Durkee, Jackson was born on September 20, 1922, in Tatanager, India, where his father was erecting bridges for Bethlehem Steel Company. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1941) and Cornell University (1947), respectively. Worcester Polytechnic awarded Jackson a CE degree in 1951. He began his professional life as a designer and structures test engineer for Douglas Aircraft Company in California. From 1944 to 1946, Jackson served his country in World War II as a naval deck officer in the Pacific Fleet. In 1947, Jackson joined Bethlehem Steel where he worked for 29 years. He was employed in various divisions of the company, attaining the position of Chief Bridge Engineer in 1965. His significant bridgework accomplishments while with Bethlehem Steel included, among others, the Second Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the state of Washington, the first Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland, and the Narragansett Bay Bridge in Rhode Island. Jackson originated and directed Bethlehem Steel’s research and development of the prefabricated parallel-wire strand system for main supporting cables of suspension bridges. On Durkee’s recommendation, such cables were first used in 1968 on the suspension bridge over Narragansett Bay near Newport, Rhode Island, and on the suspension spans of the second Chesapeake Bay bridge near Annapolis, Maryland, completed in 1973. Their most extensive application was on suspension bridges in Japan, including the vast Honshu-Shikoku crossings and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge with the world’s longest main span. The prefabricated parallel-wire strand system replaced the aerial spinning method of parallel-wire cable construction developed by bridge builder John A. Roebling in the 1840s. Jackson was listed as a co-inventor on seven U.S. suspension bridge patents and on more than 40 derivative foreign patents. The original patents were issued to Bethlehem Steel Corporation in connection with the shop-fabricated parallel-wire bridge strand, pipe-type cable anchorages, cable-supporting saddles, and plastic bridge cable covering. Upon retirement from Bethlehem Steel, Jackson served as a Visiting Professor of Structural Engineering at Cornell University during the spring term of 1976 and, for a brief period, became a partner in the consulting firm Modjeski and Masters of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He then opened his private international consulting practice in Bethlehem. His professional career included projects in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and South Africa. He was the only American on the International Board of Consulting Engineers that planned the construction of the Messina Strait suspension bridge to connect the mainland of ltaly with the island of Sicily. He served as an expert engineering witness for over 22 years, including his trial participation with the Kansas City Hyatt walkway collapse. Jackson was a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania, California, New York, and Connecticut; and was a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom and the European Community. Among his numerous papers on bridge engineering, the Erection Strength Adequacy of Long Truss Cantilevers, co-authored with Spiro S. Thomaides and published in 1977, exemplifies the significant content and clear writing that were characteristic of Jackson’s papers. The following were some of the many projects in the United States completed with Jackson’s involvement:

Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Wheeling, West Virginia, 1979–1981

Hale Boggs Cable-Stayed Bridge, Luling, Louisiana, 1980–1983

Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridge Evaluation and Rehabilitation, 1982–1988

Tennessee River Girder Bridge Failure During Erection, 1999

East Bay Suspension Bridge, San Francisco, 1999–2007

Patton Island Girder Bridge, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, 2002–2004

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, 2004–2007. Jackson was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1995 and was a regular participant in its annual meetings. He was an Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; a fellow of two British engineering societies, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers; and a member of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering. He served on several committees of the above organizations as well as of the Transportation Research Board of the National Research Council. Among the many recognitions of his contributions are the Ernest E. Howard Award of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Robert H. Goddard Award of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the John A. Roebling Medal of the International Bridge Engineering Conference—the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania. Outside his engineering activities, Jackson was concerned with competitive enterprise and economic research. For example, he participated in the Fifth Institute on Freedom and Competitive Enterprise at Claremont Men’s College in 1958, and in 2006 became a voting member of the Corporation, the American Institute for Economic Research. He was an avid outdoors-man, golfer, and traveler. A true believer in the benefits of physical fitness, Jackson continued regular exercises for many years and gave preference to a bicycle over an automobile whenever practical. He was a member of a couple of golf clubs at St. Andrews in Scotland, doing his best never to miss an opportunity to play their links. His list of memberships included Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., and Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem.

Jackson died on June 14, 2007. His wife Marian died in March 2010. He is survived by three daughters: Janice and her husband Blake Tarry of New Hope, Pennsylvania; Judith and her husband Clay Burton of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; Christine and her husband, Robert Simpson of Nazareth, Pennsylvania; seven grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Jackson Leland Durkee was a unique person who stood out among his peers as a colorful individual.

BY IVAN M. VIEST National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Memorial Tributes: Volume 14. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


150 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection consists of papers of Jackson Leland Durkee, consulting bridge engineer, related to the bridges mainly in the USA.


Collection arranged in 3 series, first by format (blueprints and plans), then in box number order as they were shipped by Jackson Leland Durkee's daughter Judith Durkee.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated by Judith Durkee in two installments in 2104 and 2018.

Related Materials

Special Collections holds several civil, structural and bridge engineering collections, such as Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, John W. Fisher Papers, Blair Birdsall Papers, Fritz Engineering Lab Reports, David Guise Bridge Engineering Collection.


Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)