Lewis A. Pick
Lewis Andrew Pick was born in Brookneal, Virginia on November 18, 1890. He attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he excelled in athletics and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
Pick was on an advancing career path as a civil engineer, but his desire to serve his country led him to join the U.S. Army during World War I. First Lieutenant Pick served the Corps of Engineers Reserve in the Office of the Chief of Engineers until he was reassigned when the tour of the 23rd Engineer Regiment ended early. In March of 1918, he was part of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in France—part of the final Allied offensive of World War I. Lieutenant Pick became Captain Pick by September of the same year.
In 1919, Captain Pick returned to civilian life and work, but missed the excitement of Army life. A new appointment as a Captain in the Army Corps of Engineers led him to San Francisco and then the Philippines.
Captain Pick later furthered his education as a student officer in the Engineer School at Fort Humphreys, Virginia. After graduating in 1924, he was assigned to Auburn as the Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. It was here that he met his wife, Alice Cary, the daughter of Dean Charles Cary, founder of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Their marriage produced a son, Lewis A. Pick, Jr., and began a family that is still an important part of Auburn, Alabama.
But Pick wasn’t yet done serving his country, both at home and abroad. In 1925, he was assigned to the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers and became the district engineer by 1927. During the great Mississippi River flood of 1927, he served as Herbert Hoover’s engineer assistant on the relief commission to the stricken area. He served in various roles at Texas A&M, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Cincinnati, Ohio. In October of 1943, Pick was assigned to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations during World War II. Responsible for supplying American and Chinese troops operating in Burma, Pick led the construction of the Ledo Road, or “Pick’s Pike” after both the British and French had failed. Called a “stupendous job of engineering” by Life Magazine in 1944, the supply line spanned 1,000 miles through mountain and jungle, and was used to deliver 147,000 tons of supplies to troops. For this service, Pick was awarded the Order of the Banner and Cloud by the Chinese government of Chiang Kai Chek and the Order of the Bath from Great Britain.
Pick rose to the rank of Lieutenant General and served as the Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until his retirement. He developed the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, a system of dams and reservoirs for flood control and irrigation that tamed the mighty Missouri River. He also built the strategic nuclear Thule Airforce Base, 200 miles below the Arctic Circle, which was part of the cold war defense network after World War II. Both were projects that others doubted could be done.
After his retirement, General Pick was elected Vice Chairman of the Board of the Georgia-Pacific Plywood Company and served his home state by organizing the first office of economic development, which started the process of large industrial recruitment to our state.
General Pick died on December 3, 1956 at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. On the day of his burial, Auburn mourned his loss as public schools were closed for the day. The burial, with full military honors, was attended by the Governor of Alabama and high ranking Army officials.