Home > History


David Layne, SR/WA

September 20, 1993
December 11, 2001
December 5, 2004


Southern California Right of Way Association
What is now the International Right of Way Association began in 1934 in Los Angeles, California. A group of fourteen men, led by Frank C. Balfour, first met formally on October 16, 1934. On December 6, 1934, Balfour became the first president of the Southern California Right of Way Agent’s Association (SCRWA).

As one might expect, one major early endeavor of the group was professional education. Education was two pronged; first, to educate the individuals (mostly junior engineers) newly involved in the acquisition of rights of way and second, to educate the public that this burgeoning group of right of way agents were not, in fact, “road agents.”

There were three initial steps taken by SCRWA to accomplish this dual goal. The group held monthly meetings that served as a combination of social gatherings, early attempts at “networking,” and to exchange personal experiences and knowledges. In 1935, it began publication of Right of Way News, the forerunner to the International’s 1953 magazine, Right of Way. Finally, the first year produced an extension course in condemnation appraisal. A second extension course, Land Titles, was added the next year.

American Right of Way Association
Sixty-nine members formed a second chapter, Northern California, on April 19, 1938. As the American Right of Way Association (AROWA), the two chapters incorporated as a nonprofit educational organization on April 5, 1946. The Association went interstate on October 27, 1950 when the State of Oregon Highway Department’s sixty-three member Right of Way Club received its AROWA charter.

The American Right of Way Association held its first National Education Seminar on June 23-24, 1955. The seminar included approximately nine program topics. Additionally, at the seminar, the Association started to address the organizational issues of membership growth, budgets, and organizational structure. By the end of the 1950s, there were several one day on site courses, as well as, extension courses. On February 7-8, 1958 Region 4, comprising Chapters 9, 14, 15, 16, and 18 held the AROWA’s first Regional Education Seminar. Over 300 people attended the Atlantic City, New Jersey conference.

On June 15, 1958, the Association went “international” with the admission of Ontario Chapter 29. By the end of the 1950s there were thirty chapters with approximately 7,000 members in the United States and Canada. During the 1960s, expansion continued with the addition of nineteen new chapters and three new regions. The territory of the Association now included the continental United States, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, the construction of the Interstate highway system, expansions in the communication industry, and greater energy demands, including oil, electric, and gas, combined to create a greater need for educated right of way agents. Also, and as with most professional organizations, the American Right of Way Association needed to prove to the larger community its expertise and professionalism through a program based on experience and continuing professional education. To those ends, the Association, at the 1966 the Board of Director’s meeting, established the Office of Director of Education. In May 1967, the Board adopted a resolution creating the Professional Development Program, or, as it was also known, the National Registration Program. This professional designation program became effective on January 1, 1968. While, again as with most professional organizations, there was an initial “grandfathering” provision, the Association’s Senior Member (SR/WA) designation resulted in a significant expansion of educational programs.

To complement the courses, the AROWA needed written material and qualified instructors. Early publications included the 1968 Selected Readings in Right of Way and Charles Parker’s 1970 Managing the Right of Way Organization. The Association published its basic text, Principles of Right of Way, in 1972. The text was completely rewritten in 2003. To improve instructional quality, the Association held it’s first Instructor’s Clinic in Lawrence, Kansas in the summer of 1974. Today, Instructor Clinics are held at the conclusion of the international education conferences.

In its continuing efforts to maximize educational opportunities, the AROWA created the International Education Foundation in 1976 and a Canadian Educational Foundation in 1979. The Foundations provided the Association with a separate fund source for new course development, course revisions, and for other membership educational projects.

International Right of Way Association
By 1980, there were approximately 10,000 American and Canadian members. On March 15, 1980, the membership voted to amend the Articles of Incorporation to change the American Right of Way Association’s name to the International Right of Way Association (IRWA).

Education continued to be the primary mission of the International Right of Way Association and both the diversity of courses and the number of presentations increased. The IRWA instituted a mandatory designation recertification program on July 1, 1980. In 1992, the International Executive Committee approved a Declaration of Specialty Program. The voluntary specialty program provided the designated member with the opportunity to enhance and to demonstrate expertise in specific right of way areas.

At the end of 2004, the International Right of Way Association had 80 chapters in the United States and Canada plus a Chapter International. The membership stands at approximately 9,000. There are currently 29 courses offered in seven different topic areas.

In the past 58 years, the Association has grown from a group of fourteen road agents in southern California offering one correspondence course to approximately 9,000 right of way agents in the 50 United States, the 10 provinces and 3 federal territories in Canada, and several other countries and offering 29 different courses.

Region 4 of the International Right of Way Association

Chapter Name

Chapter Number

Chapter Date



November 3, 1955



March 19, 1956

Garden State


April 6, 1956

New England


May 4, 1956



January 10, 1957



April 18, 1958

Old Dominion


September 19, 1969



January 29, 1971



October 1, 1971




Chapter 18

Historical Officers:

1957 - 1970
1971 - 1980
1981 - 1990
1991 - 2000
2001 - 200