The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Honored in 1997
Jesse B. Gunstream was a pioneer in the development of the modern barge industry along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. His career spanned more than 40 years, all with Higman Towing Company of Orange, Texas.
Under his leadership, Higman became a front-runner in implementing greater safety in vessel operations, gaining the confidence of many major oil companies. He was a pioneer in transportation of crude oil, which soon became one of the largest volume commodities transported on the inland waterways. He personally scheduled the transportation of more than one billion barrels of crude oil, all without a single major spill.
Mr. Gunstream and his company were also leaders in developing the modern operating concept of barge transportation on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. When he entered the business in 1952, most barges were towed on a hawser behind small model bow tugs. Higman began converting its fleet to push boats. This led to larger, twin-screw boats, which allowed larger barges. Barge capacities went from 10,000 barrels to 30,000 barrels, resulting in the modern liquid fleet, the safest form of surface transportation today.
Over the years, Mr. Gunstream developed a reputation as the expert in the movement of crude oil. He provided the needed “know how” when the U.S. Government decided to transport 100,000 barrels per day of imported crude from Nederland, Texas, to the salt domes at Hackberry, Louisiana.