For 25 years prior to 1937, and under the leadership of ASCE, certain Texas Engineers had tried repeatedly to convince the Texas Legislature that a law to separate the qualified from the unqualified was essential to the protection of the public. What was desired was a "registration" law similar to one passed in Wyoming in 1907. Not much apparent progress was being made until an unfortunate event March 18, 1937.
Early on that morning a disastrous explosion of the natural gas fired boiler in the consolidated school in New London, Texas (the largest school of it's kind in the world at the time) leveled the school. Killed were 294 students and teachers and many others were left seriously injured and burned. (This was a terribly large loss of life; by comparison about 168 were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing incident a few years ago). On May 28, 1937, a new engineering registration law was introduced in Texas and it became effective January 1, 1938. In 1965, the law was completely rewritten and expanded, at which time engineering legally became a learned profession in the State of Texas, and Professional Engineers had new and higher responsibilities both to the state and the public.
Since 1938, over 85,000 Engineers of all disciplines have been registered in Texas. Of these, only about 47,000 are still active today (and 10,000 of those live outside of Texas). The three largest disciplines of Engineers living and licensed in Texas today are comprised of 9,600 Civils (26% of the Texas total), 8,100 Mechanicals (22%) and 5,900 Electricals (16%).
The number of active, licensed, Civil Engineers in Texas has increased by only about 154 per year during most of the 1990's. Being a licensed civil engineer is indeed a rare breed, there being on average only one in about every 2,000 Texans who can claim that title.
- John P. Wier, P.E., R.P.L.S., Historical Chair, Fort Worth Branch ASCE, October 2000