James Dorr McFarland,
Sr. was born in Burnet, Texas, on February 7, 1903, the son of Robert
Ray and Mary Debo MacFarland. He grew up in Cleburne, Texas, where he
graduated from high school in the spring of 1921. He entered the University
of Texas at Austin in September, 1921, to study electrical engineering.
During this era as a student, he roomed with Byron Short, a future UT
engineering faculty member and the brother of Phyllis Short, who later
became Dorr McFarland's wife.
Upon graduation with a BSEE in June 1926, McFarland took a job with
General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York. At that time this
job offer was extended only to the top of the graduating class. His
job at GE involved testing of large motors and turbines. He returned
to Texas in the spring of 1928 to interview in GE's Dallas office. Fortuitously,
on a return visit to his former professors at UT, he was offered a teaching
position by Professor C. E. Rowe, who at that time was chairman of the
Department of Drawing. He began as an instructor of drawing at UT on
April 1, 1928, starting with a salary of $200 per month. McFarland,
along with Rowe and W. H. McNiel, were the first three faculty members
in the Department of Drawing.
In June 1930, McFarland married Phyllis Short, and they had two sons,
James and Sam. McFarland was preceded in death by Sam, in 1989. In 1939,
McFarland built a house on East 38 1/2 Street, where he and his wife
lived until his death. In the 1930s, McFarland worked during summer
months as a draftsman for the Texas Highway Department.
McFarland was co-author, along with C. E. Rowe, of the popular textbook
Engineering Descriptive Geometry,
which was published by D. Van
Nostrand Company in 1939 and again in 1953. At one time, the textbook
was used by 85 colleges in the United States and Latin America. During
this era, McFarland taught courses in engineering drawing, drafting,
and descriptive geometry. He was promoted to assistant professor in
1937, to associate professor in 1943, and to professor in 1950. He became
registered as a Professional Engineer and made Who's Who in Engineering.
He also found time to complete his master's degree in electrical engineering
at UT during this time.
McFarland was a trustee of the UT Engineers' Loan Fund for thirty-two
years, and served as chairman for seven years. He took special pride
in helping students who were in financial need to continue with their
engineering studies. Each student who applied was given serious consideration
for a loan through a personal interview, where a full inventory of the
student's needs and accomplishments was assessed. Then, a loan of $200
was considered large.
Dorr was usually a serious professor, but he had a wry sense of humor
appreciated by others. Students affectionately gave him the nickname
of "Smiling Jack" from the Dick Tracy cartoon series. It is estimated
that, during his long tenure at UT, McFarland formally taught over 10,000
In 1951, he became chairman of the Department of Drawing and remained
in that position for seventeen years, until his retirement in May 1968.
At that time, the engineering drawing department was merged with the
mechanical engineering department, and it is now the area of computer
graphics and engineering. McFarland achieved the status of professor
emeritus in 1969, and he stayed loyal to the University throughout his
Dorr McFarland enjoyed hunting and fishing, and befriended many students
who would accompany him on his outdoor trips. He took special pride
in his house on Lake Travis, where he spent much of his spare time.
He was quite proficient in many outdoor activities, and no fisherman
could catch white bass as he could, due to his tedious study of their
habits. Hunting season brought another source of pleasure, with the
deer and turkey in the hill country around Medina, Texas, being a favorite
target. At the request of his wife, Dorr encapsulated many of his favorite
outdoor hunting and fishing experiences in a booklet titled Long
and Short Tales,
which he self-published in 1983.
McFarland was active in the Wilshire Presbyterian Church for forty-eight
years, and achieved a 70-year Certificate from the University Masonic
Lodge. At age 95, James Dorr McFarland, Sr. passed away peacefully on
Monday, January 16, 1999.
Larry R. Faulkner, President
The University of Texas at Austin
John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty
This memorial resolution was prepared
by a special committee consisting of Professors Ronald E. Barr (chair),
H. Grady Rylander, Jr., and Archie W. Straiton.
Distributed to the Dean of the College of Engineering,
the Executive Vice President and Provost, and the President on
December 7, 1999. Copies are available on request from the Office
of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500. This resolution is posted
under "Memorials" at: http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/