Melvin Gordon, who led Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. for more than five decades, died Tuesday in Boston after a brief illness, the company announced. He was 95.
Gordon was chairman and CEO of the Chicago-based confectioner for 53 years, overseeing the manufacture of 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day and other favorites including Junior Mints, Charleston Chews and Tootsie Pops.
He worked a full schedule until last month, the company said. He was the oldest CEO of a company trading on a major U.S. stock exchange, according to S&P Capital IQ.
Gordon celebrated the Tootsie Roll's 100th anniversary in 1996 by touring the Chicago factory with an Associated Press reporter. He scooped up one of the warm, gooey candies from the assembly line and tasted it, saying: "There's nothing like a hot Tootsie Roll."
He boasted that Tootsie Rolls were almost indestructible.
"Nothing can happen to a Tootsie Roll. We have some that were made in 1938 that we still eat," Gordon said. "If you can't bite it when it's that old, you certainly can lick it."
Tootsie Rolls were invented in 1896 by New York City candy maker Leo Hirshfield, who named it for his 5-year-old daughter, Clara, his little Tootsie. Tootsie Pops, which are lollipops with Tootsie Roll centers, have been around for more than 80 years.
Tootsie Roll has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1922. Gordon married into the business in 1950 when he wed Ellen Rubin, whose father, William Rubin, was president of Sweets Co. of America. Gordon changed the company's name to Tootsie Roll in 1966.
Gordon's wife of 65 years, Ellen Gordon, has been named chairman and CEO by its board, the company said Wednesday. She has been company president and chief operating officer.
Melvin Jay Gordon was born Nov. 26, 1919, in Boston. He attended Harvard, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1941 and an MBA in 1943.
Besides his wife, Gordon is survived by four daughters and six grandchildren.
Johnson writes for the Associated Press.