Henry G. Shirley

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Henry Garnett Shirley (1874 – July 16, 1941) was Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Highways. He was a leader in national highway policy and oversaw the development of an extensive state highway system in Virginia.

Shirley was born in Locust Grove, West Virginia, the son of Robert Vinson Shirley and Julia Moore Baylor. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1896 with a civil engineering degree and later earned a doctorate degree from the University of Maryland.

After serving in the Spanish–American War, he worked for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad and other railroad companies and for the engineering department of the District of Columbia. He was roads engineer for Baltimore County, Maryland, and chief engineer of the Maryland State Roads Commission. During World War I, he served on the Highway Transport Committee, Council of National Defense, helping keep the roads of the nation in shape to handle military traffic. In 1918, he became executive secretary of the Federal Highway Council.

In 1922, Shirley was appointed as State Highway Commissioner by Virginia Governor E. Lee Trinkle. He continued to serve under Governors Harry F. Byrd, John Garland Pollard, George C. Peery, and James H. Price until his death. The Department of Highways was created as a state agency in 1927. He was the first president of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). He approved and promoted plans for the first limited access highway in Virginia, extending from Route 1 in Northern Virginia to the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C. Construction on the highway began shortly after his death. This road was named as the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway in his honor, and now is part of I-95 and I-395.

Shirley married Alice Robertson Graham in 1904, who died in 1916, and had five children.


  • Virginia Department of Transportation (1989). A History of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Richmond: Commonwealth Transportation Board.