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 Ford Heritage: Founder’s Grandson Appointed President of Ford Motor Company

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​DEARBORN - On Sept. 21, 1945, Henry Ford II became president of Ford Motor Company when his grandfather, Henry Ford, retired. 

Only 28 years old at the time, Henry Ford II set in motion a multi-billion-dollar reorganization and international expansion program. 

Henry Ford II retired from the company in 1982, after more than 40 years of service.

Below is a brief biography of Henry Ford II.

Henry Ford II was a member of the board of Ford Motor Company and chairman of the Finance Committee until his death on Sept. 29, 1987. He had been active since 1940 in the worldwide corporation founded by his grandfather in 1903. He resigned as chief executive officer on Oct. 1, 1979, as chairman of the board March 13, 1980, and as an officer and employee Oct. 1, 1982.

Mr. Ford was elected a director of the company in 1938. He took his first job with Ford in 1940 as a mechanic in the dynamometer room Dearborn, Mich. He later worked at Rouge plant installations in Dearborn and in the company's engineering test garage.

He took a military leave from the company in April 1941 to join the U.S. Naval Reserve as an ensign and served at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago. In May 1943 as a command lieutenant (j.g.), he was awaiting orders to sea duty when his father, Edsel B. Ford, then company president, died.

Two months later, Mr. Ford was placed on inactive duty to return to Ford and direct the company's war production. On Dec. 15, 1943, he was elected a vice president and on April 28, 1944, he became executive vice president.

Mr. Ford became president of Ford Motor Company on Sept. 21, 1945, on the retirement of his grandfather, Henry Ford.

He was elected chairman of the board and served in the dual role of president and chairman from July 13, 1960, when Ernest R. Breech retired as chairman, until Nov. 9 of the same year when Robert S. McNamara was elected president. When Mr. McNamara left the company on Jan. 3, 1961, to become Secretary of Defense in the cabinet of President Kennedy, Mr. Ford again assumed the dual role until April 12, 1961, when John Dykstra was elected president.

Under Mr. Ford's guidance, the company expanded its sales from $894.5 million in 1946 to $43.5 billion on 1979.

Almost immediately upon becoming president in 1945, Mr. Ford set in motion a multi-billion-dollar reorganization and expansion program of international proportions. The massive expenditures provided the company with modern facilities in the United States and in 22 foreign countries for engineering, manufacture, assembly and distribution of its products.

Today, Ford Motor Company and its affiliated companies conduct a diversified international business. The company produced more than 6.5 million cars, trucks and tractors worldwide in 1988 and marketed them in more than 200 countries and territories. Other products ranged from glass and steel to communication space satellites.

In 1988, for the 24th consecutive year, Ford was first in overseas sales by a U.S.-based automotive manufacturer.

One of the more significant changes in the reconversion of Ford Motor Company from World War II production was a widespread decentralization of managerial authority and assignment of responsibility to top specialists in all major areas. Many in the organization were promoted and key executives were hired from other companies to aid in a massive restructuring to strengthen and modernize Ford Motor Company. By the summer of 1948, this program was reflected in Ford products, including the totally modern 1949-model car which exerted a strong influence on postwar automobile design and performance.

Ford Motor Company again participated in defense and war production during the Korean War.

When the last government controls on production were lifted in 1953, the company produced about 2.3 million vehicles - enough to put Ford in second place among automobile manufacturers.

In 1956 – 10 years after Mr. Ford assumed control of the company – Ford stock was made available to the public. Today, more than 270,000 stockholders have Ford Motor Company shares, representing about 60 percent of the voting total. Holders of Class B Stock – most of them members of the Ford family – have the remaining 40 percent of the general voting power.

In addition to his company responsibilities, Henry Ford II was active in civic and public affairs. He was chairman of the board of trustees of Henry Ford Health Corp., a graduate member of The Business Council and a trustee of The Edison Institute. He was a director of Sotheby's Holdings, Inc., and a member of the Advisory Board of Trustees of St. Mary's Hospital, West Palm Beach, Fla. He was instrumental in the establishment in 1949 of Detroit's United Foundation, the forerunner of unified fund-raising agencies for health and community service activities throughout the country. In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed him alternate U.S. delegate to the Eighth General Assembly of the United Nations.

Mr. Ford was chairman of the trustees of the Ford Foundation from June 1943 until May 1956 and a member of the board of trustees until December 1976. The Ford Foundation was established in 1936 with an irrevocable grant of non-voting Ford Motor Company stock from Mr. Ford's father and grandfather. The Foundation no longer owns Ford stock.

In 1967, Mr. Ford was one of the group of community and business leaders who formed New Detroit, Inc., to try to deal constructively with the problems underlying civil disorders in Detroit that year. In 1970, Mr. Ford helped organize Detroit Renaissance to plan and help implement a commercial, industrial and civic revitalization of Detroit, and served as co-chairman of the organization. He was elected chairman of Detroit Renaissance in November 1981, and served in that capacity until December 1982.

In 1971, Mr. Ford launched the development of Renaissance Center, a project on Detroit's riverfront being financed by 51 private companies. Phase I of the complex, completed in 1977, included a 73-story hotel surrounded by four 39-story office towers. Phase II, two 21-story office towers constructed in partnership with Rockefeller Center, Inc., was completed in 1981. The project has been credited with stimulating additional development in downtown Detroit.

In January 1968, Mr. Ford was appointed by President Johnson as the first chairman of the National Alliance of Businessmen, a group of U.S. business leaders seeking productive jobs for hard-core unemployed and meaningful summer jobs for disadvantaged young people. He held that post until February 1969.
At the invitation of President Nixon, Mr. Ford served as chairman of the board of the National Center for Voluntary Action – a non-profit, non-partisan organization established to stimulate and support private voluntary actions to help solve the problems of people and their communities - from April 1970 to February 1972.

He was national chairman of the Crusade for Freedom in 1952, and chairman of the board of trustees of the American Heritage Foundation, sponsoring organization for the Crusade, from 1953 to 1955. He remained on the board of the Crusade until May 1956.

In 1979, Mr. Ford served as national chairman of the Freedom Hall Campaign to construct the library, exhibition hall and classrooms of The Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Social Change in Atlanta.

Mr. Ford served as a director and chairman of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority from October 1980 until December 1981.

Mr. Ford received many honors including the Gold Medal, Poor Richard Club of Philadelphia, 1954; the Voice of Business Award, Society of Business Managing Editors, 1955; the Gold Medal, Wharton School Alumni Society, University of Pennsylvania, 1956; the Public Service Award, Advertising Council, 1961, Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, 1962; Good American Award of the Chicago Committee of 100, 1963; Commandeur do l 'Ordre de la Couronne of Belgium, 1964; Grand Cross of the Royal Crown of Yugoslavia, 1964; Knight of the Grand Cross of Merit of the Italian Republic, 1966, the Medal of Freedom from President Johnson in 1969; Annual Business Statesman Award, Harvard Business School Club of New York, 1971; President's Cabinet Award Medal, University of Detroit, 1972; Commandeur of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, French Republic, 1973; Automotive Industries Magazine Career Achievement Award, 1973; Builder of Detroit Award, Wayne State University, 1973; Alexis de Tocqueville Award, The United Way of America, 1975; Man of the Year Award, Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, 1975; Technology for Peace Award of the American Technion Society; the Federal Republic of Germany's highest civilian award - The Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit and the United Jewish Appeal Humanitarian Award - in 1979. He received the annual A. Philip Randolph Award of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in 1980. He was appointed "Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" for his years of service to British industry by the Queen of England of 1982. In 1983, he received the Business Statesman Award from Detroit's Harvard Business School Club. The Wharton Entrepreneurial Center, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, presented him with the Award of Merit in 1985.

He also was elected the Outstanding Young Man of 1945 by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, and received an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University of Detroit and an honorary doctor of laws degree from Yale University. He also received the Distinguished Service Citation of the American Vocational Association.

He was a member of the Economic Club of Detroit, The Detroit Club, the Grosse Pointe Club, the Country Club of Detroit, the Yondotega Club and the Links Club, New York, and the Everglades Club, Florida.

Mr. Ford was born in Detroit on Sept. 4, 1917, the eldest of four children of Mr. and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford. He was graduated from Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Conn., in 1936 and attended Yale University until 1940. He married the former Anne McDonnell of New York on July 13, 1940 (divorced in 1964), and had two daughters, Charlotte and Anne, and a son, Edsel Bryant Ford II. Mr. Ford married the former Maria Cristina Vettore Austin in 1965 (divorced 1980). He married Kathleen DuRoss in October 1980. He was preceded in death by his brother, Benson, on July 27, 1978.  His sister, Josephine, died on June 1, 2005. He is survived by his brother William Clay.

He was a resident of Palm Beach, Fla., at the time of his death.



9/20/2012 6:00 AM