Gordon Wight Parkhill
When Gordon Wight Parkhill designed airfields and pipelines during WWII, he was an example of expertise and strength that crossed over into a successful career. Gordon, Marlin R. Smith, Jr. and S. Clarence Cooper formed a partnership while Gordon was still committed to various engineering endeavors for the United States Army in the Philippine Islands. Their company officially began in 1945 under the name of Parkhill, Smith & Cooper – Consulting Engineers.
Parkhill’s expertise in designing airfields was of benefit to him even after leaving the military. Professional Engineer Bob Redding, who retired in May of 2009, said Gordon was a captain in the Army serving as a sanitation engineer in the Philippines in the summer of 1945 when the three friends decided to start the company. He said they decided the name by flipping a coin, possibly on an “odd man in” basis to determine whose name would be listed first. He said Parkhill seemed to be the leader of the three, so it was suitable that his name is first.
In an article in the El Paso Herald-Post, Gordon was gracious about being named El Paso’s Engineer of the Year in 1965:
“I’m sure you all are wondering what I’m doing up here receiving this award.” Brushing aside his own accomplishments on local, state and national levels, he called it “a symbolic recognition of the engineering profession and the people who have already done so much.” A committee from the local chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers awarded him the plaque.
“We graduates of Texas A&M have a custom at our annual musters of calling the names of departed comrades,” Gordon said. “Those of us who are present answer ‘here’ for those who have gone. Each of you can recall those who have helped you. At this time I can answer ‘here’ for many who have helped me in my career. To them go my gratitude and my thanks for this high honor.”
Gordon was a former associate professor in civil engineering at Texas Technical College and helped formulate design criteria for sewerage systems throughout Texas. His study of the El Paso sewerage system formed the basis for a sewerage bond election. He also drafted the master plan for drainage in El Paso’s Lower Valley and worked on many contracts at Fort Bliss and other area military base installations.
After graduating from Texas A&M College with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering in 1924, Gordon worked for the Community Power and Light Company of St. Louis until 1932 when he joined the civil engineering teaching staff at Texas Tech. He stayed there until 1942 and worked his way up to the position of associate professor. He moved to El Paso to start the office in 1958. He was also active in civic groups and church.
Joe Cardenas, who worked part-time for PSC in 1974 and then full time from 1977 to 1985, said in 1974 that Gordon was still working part-time in the office.
“He was a real classy guy,” Joe said.
Gordon’s often-quoted saying had to do with how he viewed wastewater projects. Joe said Gordon would enthusiastically call them his “bread and butter.”