John D. Harper, who joined Aluminum Co. of America in 1925 as a $12-a-week summer employee and retired 50 years later as board chairman and chief executive officer, died Friday in a hospital here of a heart ailment.
Harper, 75, held several patents for sophisticated telemetry devices, developed while he worked at, and later managed, the company’s extensive electrical generating systems in Tennessee and North Carolina.
A native of Louisville, Tenn., Harper attended high school in Friendsville, Tenn., and worked summers for the nearby Alcoa plant.
After graduation from the University of Tennessee as an electrical engineer in 1933, Harper joined Alcoa’s power division as an apprentice electrical engineer. He never worked for another company.
He moved his family to Pittsburgh in 1955 and in 1956 was named general manager of Alcoa’s smelting division.
He was elected a vice president and director in 1960 and elected president of the company in 1963 at age 53.
In 1965, he was named chief executive officer, and in 1970 he became chairman of the board. He chaired the executive committee of the board from 1966 until his retirement in 1975.
Head of Aluminum Assn.
Harper was chairman of the Aluminum Assn. for two terms and a founder of the International Primary Aluminium Institute.
He served on numerous boards and for three years was chairman of Business Roundtable, a group of top-ranking corporate executives that studied business practices. After his retirement from Alcoa, he became a director and chairman of Communications Satellite Corp.