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Macfarlane Transportation Collection Guide

Legal, historical and biographical collection information

About Robert Stetson Macfarlane

Robert Stetson Macfarlane (January 15, 1899 - March 6, 1982)
President, Northern Pacific Railway 1951-1966.

The Early Years
Robert Stetson Macfarlane was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
on January 15, 1899. He was the son of Walker K. and
Blanche (Stetson) Macfarlane. He married Vivian Clemans
on February 21, 1925 and together they had Anne
(Mrs. Raymond W. Jones, Jr.), Mary (Mrs. Benjamin G. Griggs, Jr.),
Robert, Jr., and Vivian (Sra. J. J. Martinez). He served in the
U.S. Navy from 1917 to 1919, leaving there as a lieutenant (junior grade).

Mr. Macfarlane was educated at Brown University and University
of Washington where he graduated magna cum laude with an
L.L.B. degree in 1922. He worked at the law firm of Chadwick,
McMicken, Ramsey and Rupp from 1919 until his graduation in 1922,
at which time he became chief deputy prosecuting attorney for
King County, Washington, a position he held until 1925.

The next five years were spent with the law firm of Schwellenbach,
Merrick and Macfarlane. In 1930, Mr. Macfarlane became a
judge of the Superior Court for King County and remained in that
position until 1934. He was named president of University of
Washington Alumni Association in 1931,and in 1933 he was
honored with a distinguished service award from the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Portrait by William F. Draper

by William Franklin Draper

Northern Pacific Railroad

Map of Northern Pacific's route circa 1900

The Northern Pacific Years
After his service as a judge, Mr. Macfarlane became the assistant western counsel for Northern Pacific Railway (NP), where he worked his way up through promotions to become president of the railroad in 1951. During this time, he also served as a Colonel for the U.S. Army Transportation Corps in 1951 and 1952. In 1966 he left the presidency to become Chairman of the Board for Northern Pacific. (For more information, please see the section entitled, A Matter of Merger.) While he was working his way toward the railroad's presidency, Mr. Macfarlane also served as a director for the Seattle School Board from 1934 to 1950. Mr. Macfarlane also served as a director for Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Pacific National Bank in Seattle, First National Bank in St. Paul, Colorado and Southern Railway, St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance, First Trust Company in St. Paul, American Smelting and Refining, Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance, and First Bank Stock Corporation in Minneapolis.

Mr. Macfarlane worked for NP and its successor company for the remainder of his career, serving in the following capacities: assistant western counsel (1934-1937), western counsel (1937-1940), assistant to the president, Seattle (1940-1943), vice-president and assistant to the president, Seattle (1943-1947), director of NP and various subsidiaries (1945-1970), executive vice--president (1947-1950), president (1951-1966), chairman and chief executive officer (19661969). Following the 1970 merger that created Burlington Northern Inc. (BN), Mr. Macfarlane was appointed chairman emeritus (1970-1974).


The Macfarlane Transportation Collection




Although Mr. Macfarlane passed away in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 9, 1982, his legacy lives on in the form of the Macfarlane Transportation Collection at the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library at the University of Washington School of Law.

For over 34 years, this rich collection continues to grow and serve students, faculty and the law community.

For more information about Mr. Macfarlane, please see Robert S. Macfarlane (Wikipedia)






Robert S. Macfarlane Fund

When Robert S. Macfarlane spoke at the 1933 dedication of the original Condon Hall, then-Judge Macfarlane said,

''The greatest contribution of any school may well be the development of an enlightened leadership for the benefit of generations yet unborn. It will be an inquiring, examining and exploring leadership ... if it is to be a great leadership, it must be a leadership which through law seeks to bring to full fruition the American dream. "

It is in the spirit of this sentiment that the Robert Stetson Macfarlane family and the Burlington Northern established the Macfarlane Fund as a way to recognize his affection for the Law School and his lifelong respect for scholarship and the law. Members of the family and the Burlington Northern Foundation made the founding gifts to the Fund which continues to be used to purchase new books and materials for this vast collection.

When William H. Gates Hall was built, the family designated part of the Fund for the building. The Macfarlane Lounge (Room 447) honors Mr. Macfarlane and features his portrait painted by renowned American portrait artist, William Franklin Draper in 1969.

(Adapted from Dean George Schatzki, The Robert S. Macfarlane Family Establishes Memorial Library Fund, Condon Current and Annual Giving Report, 1982-83, at 7.)

mw, updated Feb. 10, 2009
lm, updated Apr. 20, 2016

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