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Andrew Jackson Higgins Edit Profile

founder , owner

Andrew Higgins was the founder and owner of Higgins Industries, the New Orleans-based manufacturer of "Higgins boats" (LCVPs) during World War II. The Higgins Boat was the most widely used amphibious assault boat of World War II.

Background

Born and raised in Nebraska, he joined the Nebraska National Guard, becoming a lieutenant, and several years later, he moved to Louisiana, where he started a lumber business.

Education

Andrew Higgins was educated locally. In 1943 Creighton University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Career

He left Omaha in 1906 to enter the lumber business in Mobile, Alabama and worked at a variety of jobs in the lumber, shipping and boat building industries in a conscious effort to enhance his experience prior to starting his own company. Four years later, Higgins became manager of a German-owned lumber-importing firm in New Orleans. In 1922, he formed his own company, the Higgins Lumber and Export Co., importing hardwood from the Philippines, Central America, and Africa and exporting bald cypress and pine. In pursuing these ends he acquired a fleet of sailing ships—said to have been the largest under American registry at that time. To service this fleet, he established his own shipyard which built and repaired his cargomen as well as the tugs and barges needed to support them. As part of his work in boat building and design Higgins completed a program in naval architecture through the National University of Sciences in Chicago, an unaccredited correspondence school, which awarded him a bachelor of science degree.

In 1926, four years after founding the Higgins Lumber and Export Co., the industrialist and shipbuilder designed the Eureka boat, a shallow-draft craft for use by oil drillers and trappers in operations along the Gulf coast and in lower Mississippi River. With a propeller recessed into a semi-tunnel in the hull, the boat could be operated in shallow waters where flotsam and submerged obstacles would render more usual types of propellers almost useless. Higgins also designed a "spoonbill" bow for his craft, allowing it to be run up onto riverbanks and then to back off with ease. His boats proved to be record-beaters; and, within a decade, he had so perfected the design that they could attain high speed in shallow water and turn practically in their own length.

Stiff competition, declining world trade, and the employment of tramp steamers to carry lumber cargoes combined to put Higgins' Lumber and Export Co. out of business. Nevertheless, the indefatigable Higgins kept his boatbuilding firm (established in 1930 as Higgins Industries) in business, constructing motorboats, tugs and barges, not only for private firms and individuals but also for the United States Coast Guard.

While searching for hardwood in the Louisiana swamps, he realized that the lack of a shallow draft boat kept lumbermen from getting to the more remote stands of hardwood. During the 1930s, he decided to invent one. His breakthrough invention that made landing craft possible was the combination of a tunnel to protect the propeller and drive shaft from vegetation and the bending distortion of the hull that prevented cavitation, which increased boat speed. In 1938, he won a Navy contract for a test boat, and in 1940, it was approved, followed by a contract for more boats. During the war, his company built 20,094 boats for the Navy. An outspoken, hot-tempered Irishman who loved bourbon, he described his personal philosophy as "The hell I can't."

In a 1943 Newsweek article, he was described as "an authentic master builder, with the will power, brains, drive and daring that characterized the American empire builders of an earlier generation."

Achievements

  • In 1987, the Fleet Oiler, USNS Andrew J. Higgins (T-AO-190) was named in his honor. There is a memorial to Andrew Higgins in Columbus, Nebraska; a seven-mile (11 km) segment of U.S. Route 81 south of Columbus is designated as the "Andrew Jackson Higgins Expressway".

Politics

Andrew Higgins was an influential part of American history, not only with his participation in World War II but also in regards to politics. With the rising success of Higgins Industries, Higgins found himself in a position of power and influence. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for his fourth consecutive term alongside vice presidential candidate Harry Truman, Higgins made sure his voice and opinion were heard. Higgins revered them and urged the nation to vote for them during the 1944 presidential election campaign while visiting various cities such as Boston and New York. Roosevelt and Truman won and thanked Higgins for his strong recommendations and for playing such a significant role in swaying the nation’s opinion in that election.

Personality

Andrew Higgins believed strongly in diversification when it came to his workforce. If one visited Higgins Industries, they would see many African Americans and women. He believed in hiring highly skilled employees. This type of workforce was very attractive in the eyes of many politicians, including Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman who were known for frequent visits.

Quotes from others about the person

  • “From Higgins Memorial

    "Andrew Higgins ..." ..Eisenhower said.. "is the man who won the war for us." "...If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVP's, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”