PAUL JOSEPH NEFFâ€”Associated with the railÂroad industry for a half century, the late Paul Joseph Ncff, a graduate licensed engineer, served as chief executive officer and president of the Missouri Pacific lines before being elected chairman of the board a month before his death on June 6, 1957. Mr. NelT was a director of the Mercantile Trnst Company, had been honored for distinguished services by Drury College and the University of Kansas, and was recipient of the Aztec Eagle, highest honor awarded by the Mexican GovernÂment for his aid to its tourist industry.
Born on July 14, 1884, he was the son of William Thorne and Anna (Sills) Neff, natives of the State of Indiana and the Dominion of Canada, respectively. His grandfather had served in the Union Army with the rank of major during the Civil War, and his father, William Thorne Neff, was a Methodist minister. The family moved around a bit during the boyhood years of Paul Joseph Neff as his father served several difÂferent pastorates, but lived in the Midwest or Central section of the nation during those years. He completed the elementary grades and attended Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri, where he demonstrated aptiÂtude in science and mathematics, and was graduated. The engineering profession was his goal at this time, and he chose the University of Kansas for his training in that field. Mr. Neff completed the curriculum of that institution and graduated with the Class of 1906, reÂceiving a Bachelor of Science degree in mining and civil engineering in 1914.
In less than a year after graduation he was working in the railroad industry and did not leave it for fifty years. He started as a rodman for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad in 1907, later worked as a transitman and assistant engineer, and in 1910 decided that he was sufficiently established in this field to marry and support a family. At this time he was working and living in Springfield, Missouri, quite an important rail center, but was transferred to Memphis, Tennessee, to supervise the building of a rail yard. After serving there for a time as engineer in charge of construction, variÂous moves took him to St. Louis, then to Springfield, back to St. Louis, then a return to the Springfield area.
Promotions within the staff of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad came with these moves. During the period when the Federal Government took over control of the railroads in World War I, Mr. Neff became chief engineer. He was in charge of all property of this rail line and affiliates during the wartime operation. In 1920-21, Mr. Neff accepted a position as general manÂager of the Wichita Falls, Ranger and Fort Worth Railroad, which he had built, as well as of the Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad. Ranger, Texas, was his headquarters at this time. The following year, 1921-22, found him chief engineer on the Texas Line, an affiliate of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, with lieadquarters at Fort Worth. He moved to Houston, Texas, in 1922 to become general manager of the International Great Northern Railroad, serving until 1925 in that capacity. He was also executive vice presiÂdent of this line in 1925-26.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad had purchased the International Great Northern and Gulf Coast Lines to add to their rail network in 1924, and for nearly two years Mr. Neff had been under their direction in this manner. He signed with the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1926, as division engineer, and began a long career with this corporation. Bus lines became an integral part of tlie Missouri Pacific transportation system in 1931 and Mr. Ncff was made general manager of them. During the period from 1926 to 1943 he held a number of titles, being shifted wherever he was most needed in the administration of the lines. The Missouri Pacific had gone into receivership in 1933, and was being operated under a court-appointed trustee. At this time, Robert Safford was chief executive officer of the MisÂsouri Pacific in Texas, and after his death in 1943 Mr. Neff took over his duties and office at the Houston headquarters. He remained in Houston and directed activities of the rail lines in this area of the nation from 1943 until 1946. The death of Mr. Baldwin, presiÂdent of the Missouri Pacific, in 1946 posed a problem for Guy Thompson, then trustee for tlie rail lines, which he solved by appointing Mr. Neff to that office. His title was chief executive officer, as a president was not to be appointed during the period of receivership, but he was executive administrator for a decade, 1946 to 1956, and it is of record that he was instrumental in getting the rail lines out of receivership during this ten year period. When the receivership was closed in 1956, Mr. Neff was elected president of the Missouri Pacific and affiliated lines. This gave him direction of more than ten thousand miles of tracks and all of the equipment that went with it. He came to this office one of the most respected railroad executives in the industry, a man who was an engineer through education, but worked up from rodman and transitman to chief of engineering before assuming office responsibilities in administration. He served as president of the line for one year and then, one month prior to his death on June 6, 1957, was made chairman of the board of directors.
Although still one of the nation's vital industries, at the time of his rise to executive status, the railroads dominated transportation and industrial activity in this country as no other single operation has ever done. The statement that our rail lines were the nation's arteries was well understood by all. The expanding use of private automobiles, trucking firms, bus lines, and the air traffic has cut sharply into1 passenger traffic, eliminated some lines, curtailed passenger service, caused large mergers, and motivated major adjustments by railway executives. Mr. Neff worked through the great years of operation and expansion, of industrial dominÂance, and through the two great wars of our modern history, helped modernize to meet changing standards, met the challenge of bus lines, airways, and trucking routes, and established a firm reputation as one of the leading rail executives in the nation during the half century he devoted to a great American industry.
Other interests included serving as a director of the Mercantile Trust Company in St. Louis. Mr. Neff traveled quite extensively in his work, but was active in club life, in church work, and in civic affairs. While residing in Houston, Texas, he served as president of the Chamber of Commerce in what is now the nation's sixth largest city. He was a member of various railroad associations and engineering societies. Golf was his hobby, and he shared Mrs. Neff's interest in photogÂraphy. Mr. and Mrs. Neff made many trips together that were thoroughly enjoyable. He was given an honorary degree by Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, that of W. L. D. Another honorary award for distinguished services came from his alma mater, the University of Kansas. The National Government of Mexico presented him with the honorary decoration of Aztec Eagle, highest given to a citizen of another country, for his work in helping friendly relations beÂtween this country and Mexico and for helping deÂvelop the Mexican tourist industry. Memberships inÂcluded the Bellerive Country Club and Noonday Club. A member of the First Congregational Church of St. Louis, he had served as chairman of its board.
On April 9, 1910; Margaret _ Philbrook and Paul Joseph Neff were united in marriage at a ceremony in Kansas City, Missouri. She is the daughter of Oren W. and Nettie A. Philbrook, her father a native of Piper City, Illinois, and her mother of Onarga, also in Illinois. Mrs. Neff is a graduate of the University of Kansas and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Her three daughters and some granddaughters are als" members of Kappa Alpha Theta. Mrs. Neff has served with the American Red Cross in St. Louis and was with the Home Service Department of that organization in Houston, Texas, from 1943 to 1946. She is a member of the National Board of the Young Women's Christian Association in St. Louis, as well as of the Metropolitan St. Louis Y.W.C.A., and participated in the expansion program of the organization as chairman of the buildÂing committee. A past president of the Kappa Alpha Theta Alumni Association of St. Louis, she also served as a district president. In the past she has served as president of both the Women's Council and the Women's Guild of First Congregational Church in this city. She also spends some time at the family's summer cottage in northern Michigan and has traveled in Europe, the South Seas, and North Cape. She has been around the world.
Mr. and Mrs. Neff were the parents of three daughÂters: 1. Elizabeth Louise, now Mrs. Robert Bull Erck-man and a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, is the mother of Dr. Paul Neff Erckman, now an intern prior to medical practice, Richard Legare and Carol Elizabeth, twins. 2. Margaret Lee is married to Edwin H. Bosse, Jr., and they are the parents of Noel Krenning Bosse, who attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. 3. Helena Katherine was first married to the late Glens S. Givens, who died on August 30, 1952. Children by that marriage are Douglas Randall, a student at Central College, and Robert William Givens, an engineering student at Kansas University. Now Mrs. Orlie H. Wil-kening, she is mother of Colleen Wilkening, a student at the University of Wisconsin, Betty Jean, who attends De Paul University, and Pamela, now in high school.