Governor Roy Cochran was one of the first four graduates of Brady High School,
in Brady, Lincoln County, Nebraska. He was sent to Lincoln with $40 in his
pocket to get an education, completed the four-year Civil Engineering course
in 3 years, and never asked his family for financial support.
After returning to Lincoln County, Roy Cochran became the Lincoln County Surveyor, then District Engineer. Roy's brother had a job as a county road grader, and when he heard whispers that he had obtained his job through political favors from his brother, he immediately quit! Gib Patterson notes that his grandfather (Roy's brother) was one of the most honorable men he has ever known.
"In a lot of respects, Roy Cochran was the 'quiet man' in that he was not a person who continually beat his own drum to stay elected". He married a most gracious lady in 1919: Aileen Gant, from North Platte, who was the Lincoln County Superintendent of Schools. He joined the Army at the beginning of World War I and served as a Captain in the Artillery He remained in the Army Reserves, and at the beginning of World War II he was recalled to active duty and served as the Commanding Officer of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
Governor Roy Cochran, rose from District Engineer to Deputy State Engineer, and then State Engineer. In 1934, he ran for Governor against his college roommate and best friend, Dwight Griswold. The contest was a completely clean one, and they battled each other for the Governor's position for two elections. All the while, they remained friends, and visited each other's families, even though Griswold lived in Scottsbluff and Roy Cochran lived in Lincoln. In 1938, Roy Cochran defeated Charles Warner and Charles Bryan. He served a total of three terms, and was the Governor during the first year of the Unicameral Legislature.
When he was appointed as State Engineer, there were fewer than 100 miles of surfaced road in Nebraska. In his years as State Engineer and Governor, he supervised the building, paving, graveling and improvement of 18,198 miles of Nebraska roads. It was also during his term as State Engineer that he directed a large part of the construction of the state capitol buildings.
Roy Cochran believed in "pay as you go", and for many years Nebraska was listed as the White Spot in the Nation, as it was the only state in the union with neither state sales tax nor state income tax. In 1952, when my aunt and her family travelled back to Nebraska from California, they saw a huge billboard at the border which stated "Welcome to Nebraska, the White Spot of the Nation. Nebraska Highways are paid for--" During Governor Cochran's term as Governor, the state budget was always solvent, and there were no unpaid debts.
After the war, he joined the War Housing Administration, and in 1944 - 1945 was a United Nations Liaison Officer with the military in North Aftica and Italy. He also served 10 years with the Bureau of the Budget in Washington as a specialist in the field of water resources. During this period of time, Governor Dwight Griswold, his best friend who also served three terms as Governor, called on Cochran to help him in his role as Chief of the American Mission in Greece. He took time out from his service in the Bureau of the Budget to serve for a time as the Deputy Chief of the mission. He was also associated with the Department of Reclamation and other agencies, formally retiring 1955 at age 70. During his years in Washington, he walked three miles to and from work almost every day, including his 70th birthday and day of retirement. In 1959, he was tapped for state level service again as State Engineer by Gov. Ralph Brooks and served a full year in that position. As late as 1958, Cochran was mentioned as a possible candidate for return to the governorship but maintained he was looking for lighter jobs, not heavier ones. "I feel like the old man who was approached and asked if he could change a $20 bill," he said at the time. "My answer is the same: 'I can't do it, but I sure appreciate the compliment'".
Governor Roy Cochran died in Lincoln, Nebraska on February 23, 1963.