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What’s in a Name? Max Starcke Dam

How did Max Starcke Dam in Marble Falls get its name?

Max Starcke Dam separates Lake Marble Falls from Lake Travis. It is the smallest of the six Lower Colorado River Authority dams with 10 floodgates. Photo courtesy of LCRA • Max Hugo Starcke. Photo from Wikipedia

When Max Hugo Starcke died at the age of 88 in 1972, U.S. Rep. J.J. “Jake” Pickle remarked on the man’s legacy and read his obituary into the minutes of the House of Representatives.

“Mr. Speaker,” said Pickle, formally addressing Speaker Carl Albert from the House Floor in Washington, D.C., “whenever we see economic and domestic growth in a section of our country, we usually find that one of the leaders of the growth forces is a man who has been related to an electric or energy authority. In Central Texas, that leader was Mr. Max Starcke, administrator of the Lower Colorado River Authority.”

Pickle called the LCRA “the granddaddy of river authorities in Texas” and credited Starcke with the idea of pulling it all together.

“Max Starcke proved that the various electric authorities could work together,” Pickle continued. “It is a perfect example of what can be accomplished if all the electric and energy forces help each other.”

Work on the dams that brought electricity to the Hill Country and created six Highland Lakes from Lake Buchanan to Lake Austin began in the 1930s with Buchanan Dam, the largest, and ended with the completion of Max Starcke Dam, the smallest, in 1951.

Originally named Marble Falls Dam, Max Starcke Dam separates Lake Marble Falls from Lake Travis.

Starcke was the LCRA’s second general manager, serving from 1940 to 1955, when he retired. He took over from Clarence McDonough, who became the first general manager in 1935.

The dam is not the only public entity that bears Starcke’s name and generating electricity was not his only interest. In 1909, he was elected to the city council in his hometown of Seguin. In 1924, he was elected mayor and served six consecutive terms, which lasted 14 years.

His beautification efforts in Seguin earned him a park to mark his legacy. Max Starcke Park takes up 227 acres along the Guadalupe River. Today, it includes an 18-hole golf course, a wave pool, a natural fishing area, a paddling trail, a walking trail, and a playscape. Along with a baseball-softball complex, the park also has tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts.

The dam for which he is named holds back Lake Marble Falls, which, at 591 acres, is the smallest of the Highland Lakes. It has 10 floodgates and generates 41.4 megawatts of electricity at full capacity. It is 98.8 feet high and 859.5 feet long. It was named for Starcke in 1962.

Maximilian Hugo Starcke was born in 1884 in what is now Zorn, just outside of Seguin. He attended what is now Texas A&M University and a San Antonio business college, paying his way as a salesman for a Uvalde coal mine. He entered the world of politics in 1906 as the clerk and secretary for state Sen. Joseph B. Dibrell of Seguin. 

As a businessman, he subdivided and developed Sandia and Orange Grove, established a funeral home, and organized a bank, all in Seguin.

As mayor of Seguin, he is credited with building the city’s first water-filtration plant and hydroelectric power plant. What is now known as the Texas Municipal League owes its creation to Starcke, who served as its president for several terms.

He also served as general operations manager of the LCRA from its first day in business, completing the authority’s construction program. As general manager, he built two dams, including the one named after him. He extended the LCRA’s service to 33 cities and 11 rural electric cooperatives.

Starcke even has a particular type of rock named after him. When Silurian outcrops were found near Llano in 1966, they were officially named Starcke Limestone.

Starcke served on the Texas State Parks Board and too many other organizations and associations to list. He was an Elk, a Mason, a Lion, a Rotarian, a Son of Hermann, and a deacon at University Presbyterian Church in Austin. 

“Max Starcke offered us strong leadership and fair leadership,” Pickle said as he concluded his remarks on the House floor. “We owe him more thanks than we can say for the good he did in his lifetime.”