George Washington Goethals
Stories from the United States' relationship with the Panama Canal, in celebration of its centenary
George Washington Goethals marked the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the Panama Canal construction. He became a lieutenant coronel and head of the Army Corps of Engineers during the Spanish-American War. He has the third, and last, head engineer designated by President Theodore Roosevelt to supervise the Canal construction.
He was also appointed to various executive positions, such as the railroad presidency, the first president for the Canal Isthmus Commission and the first Governor for the Panama Canal Zone. Goethals arrived to Panama just after Stevens mysteriously resigned his position, and he brought with him the military culture. This gave more order and structure to this important construction project. Nevertheless, his military background did not turned him into a ruthless leader.
He was very attentive to the workers’ complaints, and greatly improved the work environment. Goethals introduced various innovations during the construction; the weekly newspaper Canal Record was his idea, which was in circulation for the major part of the construction. Goethals remained as the Panama Canal Zone governor for many years after the construction ended.