CECO Vice-President James R. Hutton, Engineer, Author, Mentor

Integrity Was His Cornerstone

Compressor Engineering Corporation’s James R. Hutton, one of the nation’s leading mechanical engineers, died in Houston on April 8, 2017, of natural causes related to age. He was 96.

Hutton was a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers — the highest distinction any Mechanical Engineer can achieve. In October of 2012, Hutton also received the Edward N. Henderson Award from the Gas Machinery Research Council (GMRC). The award honors distinguished service to the GMRC and the natural gas industry.

Mike Grubb, president of the GMRC, said, “Mr. Hutton was an inspiration to so many young engineers over the course of his career. His passion for mentoring, especially in the area of ethics, helped many professionals in our industry grow into the positions they enjoy today.”

Richard Hotze, president of CECO, said, “It has been an honor and a pleasure to have worked with Mr. Hutton over the past 30 years. He will always be remembered as a leader, a friend, and a consummate salesman and extraordinary engineer. He was an integral part of the CECO family.”

Mr. Hutton was born December 18, 1920 on a farm near Bonham, Texas. He was the sixth of seven children and lived on the farm until the age of nine years old. The Great Depression forced his family off their farm.  His father sought work in Henderson as the east Texas oil field was starting up. He and his family finally settled in Tyler, Texas where he attended high school.

While attending high school, Hutton worked part time at a wholesale candy and tobacco house doing odd jobs. When he finished high school in 1939, he began working there full time. His pay of $12/week was often the only source of family income.

After a short stint at Tyler Junior College, Hutton made his way to Austin, where with the help of a job washing pots and pans in the scullery at the Scottish Rite Dormitory, he was able to enter the School of Engineering at the University of Texas in the summer of 1941.

In June 1943, after World War II broke out, he was called up by the US Navy and ordered to report to engineering midshipman’s school at Columbia University in New York City. Hutton received his commission as an ensign in the US Navy in October of 1943 and finished his training at Diesel School, first at North Carolina State in Raleigh, then General Motors Tech in Flint, MI.

In April of 1944, Hutton was assigned as the Chief Engineer on LST 1020 and set to sea from Quincy, Mass. Hutton often joked that they set sail before the ship’s paint was dry. The ship headed for Europe in a large convoy of about 25 ships with escorts. The crew all assumed that they were headed to Normandy but were diverted to Naples, Italy to prepare for the southern France landing, which was made at 6:00 am on the morning of August 15, 1944.

By late December of the same year, he returned to the states. He soon volunteered to be the Chief Engineer on another LST headed to the Pacific Theater of Operations. He returned to Texas in February of 1946 where he was formally discharged from the Navy. He headed back to Austin, where Hutton completed his Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration degrees at the University of Texas.

Upon graduation, Hutton began his career with Clark Brothers, a Division of Dresser, where they manufactured compressor and integral gas engines. His long years of service to the oil and gas industry are unparalleled. Hutton retired from Dresser in 1986 as president of the International Division of Dresser Machinery, where he had worked for 38 years.

Hutton then started his final career with Compressor Engineering Corporation, a Houston-based compressor parts manufacturing firm, the very following day, serving as Vice President of Sales until his death.

Hutton was the oldest active registered professional engineer in the eight states he was licensed to practice his profession.

He authored How to Sell Technical Equipment and Services, published by PennWell in 2005.

Hutton was preceded in death by his bride, Margaret Berry Hutton, and is survived by their two children, Heather Namendorf of Austin, TX and James E. B. Hutton of Houston, TX and two grandchildren.  Funeral arrangements are not yet complete.

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