Spencer J. Buchanan, Sr. was born in 1904 in Yoakum, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1926, and earned graduate and professional degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University.
He held the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army Reserve, (Ret.), and organized the 420th Engineer Brigade in Bryan-College Station, which was the only such unit in the Southwest when it was created. During World War II, he served the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as an airfield engineer in both the U.S. and throughout the islands of the Pacific Combat Theater. Later, he served as a pavement consultant to the U.S. Air Force and during the Korean War he served in this capacity at numerous forward airfields in the combat zone. He held numerous military decorations including the Silver Star. He was founder and Chief of the Soil Mechanics Division of the U.S. Army Waterways Experiment Station in 1932, and also served as Chief of the Soil Mechanics Branch of the Mississippi River Commission, both being Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Professor Buchanan also founded the Soil Mechanics Division of the Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University in 1946. He held the title of Distinguished Professor of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in that department. He retired from that position in 1969 and was named professor Emeritus. In 1982, he received the College of Engineering Alumni Honor Award from Texas A&M University.
He was the founder and president of Spencer J. Buchanan & Associates, Inc., Consulting Engineers, and Soil Mechanics Incorporated in Bryan, Texas. These firms were involved in numerous major international projects, including twenty-five RAF-USAF airfields in England. They also conducted Air Force funded evaluation of all U.S. Air Training Command airfields in this country. His firm also did foundation investigations for downtown expressway systems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, St. Paul, Minnesota; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Dayton, Ohio, and on Interstate Highways across Louisiana. Mr. Buchanan did consulting work for the Exxon Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, Conoco, Monsanto, and others.Professor Buchanan was active in the Bryan Rotary Club, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Chi Epsilon, served as faculty advisor to the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was a Fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers. In 1979 he received the award for Outstanding Service from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Professor Buchanan was a participant in every International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering since 1936. He served as a general chairman of the International Research and Engineering Conferences on Expansive Clay Soils at Texas A&M University, which were held in 1965 and 1969.
Spencer J. Buchanan, Sr., was considered a world leader in geotechnical engineering, a Distinguished Texas A&M Professor, and one of the founders of the Bryan Boy’s Club.He died on February 4, 1982, at the age of 78, in a Houston hospital after an illness, which lasted several months.