Eastman, Joseph B. (Joseph Bartlett), 1882-1944

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Born at Katonah, N.Y., on June 26, 1882, Joseph Bartlett Eastman was the son of a Presbyterian minister, Rev. John Huse Eastman, and Lucy (King) Eastman. He received a B.A. from Amherst College in 1904 and was then accepted as a fellow at the South End House in Boston, position that would launch him on a lifelong career as a public servant. In 1905, Eastman was appointed by later U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis the secretary of the Public Franchise League. While in that position, he fought against attempts by the Boston Elevated Railway to gain control of the city's subway system. In 1907, Eastman enrolled in the Boston University Law School, but dropped out after two years. He worked for the Public Franchise League until 1913, when he resigned in order to act as counselor for various Street Railway employees' organizations.

Two years later, Eastman became a member of the Massachusetts Public Service Commission where he worked until President Woodrow Wilson nominated him to the Interstate Commerce Commission in late 1918. The ICC was an independent agency of the U.S. government which regulated the operation of railroads, trucking companies, bus lines, freight forwarders, water carriers, oil pipelines, transportation brokers, and express agencies engaged in transportation between states. By appointment of President Franklin Roosevelt, Eastman also served the office of Federal Coordinator of Transportation from 1933 to 1936 and was Director of Defense Transportation from 1942 to 1944.

Joseph B. Eastman earned the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Amherst (1926) and Dartmouth (1941). He was elected a trustee of Amherst College in 1940. He never married and lived with his sister Elizabeth Eastman until his death in 1944.

  • June 26, 1882: Joseph B. Eastman is born at Katonah, NY
  • 1904: Graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College
  • 1904 - 1905 : South End House fellowship, Boston, MA
  • 1905: Appointed Secretary of the Public Franchise League, Boston, MA
  • 1907 - 1908 : Studied at Boston University Law School
  • 1912 - 1913 : Responsible for the Boston Elevated Railway Report
  • 1913: Serves on the Massachusetts Public Service Commission
  • Dec. 19, 1918: Nominated by Pres. Wilson to the Interstate Commerce Commission
  • 1926: Appointed Chairman of the ICC
  • 1926: Awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Amherst College
  • 1930: Appointed Chairman of the ICC Legislative Committee
  • 1933: Nominated by Pres. Roosevelt Federal Coordinator of Transportation
  • 1934: Delivered the address to the Senior Class of Amherst College at Commencement
  • 1940: Elected Amherst College Trustee
  • 1941: Appointed by Pres. Roosevelt Director of Defense Transportation
  • March 15, 1944: Dies at the age of 62
  • June 1944: Liberty Ship named in Eastman's honor by the Maritime Commission
  • March 1945: Bronze portrait bust of Eastman presented to the ICC by the Association of ICC Practitioners of Washington
  • 1945: Joseph B. Eastman Foundation is created
  • 1952: Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People, a biography by Claude Fuess, is published in New York

From the guide to the Joseph B. Eastman (AC 1904) Papers, 1837-1960, 1904-1944, (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Transportation--United States
World War, 1939-1945--Transportation
Railroads, Elevated--Massachusetts--Boston


Birth 1882-06-26

Death 1944




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