GM’s history of CEOs - Alfred P. Sloan Jr.
11 Images

GM’s history of CEOs

Alfred P. Sloan Jr. (May 10, 1923 - June 3, 1946)
Alfred P. Sloan Jr. was born in 1875 in New Haven, Conn., the oldest of five children. His father operated a wholesale tea, coffee and tobacco business, which he moved to New York City in 1885, settling the family in Brooklyn.

Sloan was nominated as GM president and chief executive in 1923 and was elected board chairman in 1937. After 1956, he continued to play an important role at GM as honorary chairman.

Sloan died on Feb. 17, 1966, in New York City at age 90.

Source: GM (General Motors)
Charles E. Wilson (June 3, 1946 - Jan. 26, 1953)
He was born in Minerva, Ohio, on July 18, 1890, the son of Thomas E. and Rosalind Unkefer Wilson. His father, a graduate of Mount Union College, was principal of the Minerva school in which his mother had been a teacher. His grandmother on his mother’s side was a Purdue before her marriage to Jeremiah Unkefer, and both the Unkefers and the Purdues were early settlers in the Minerva district.

Wilson resigned to become secretary of Defense in the Cabinet of President Eisenhower on Jan. 26, 1953. He served in that capacity until Oct. 2, 1957. He died Sept. 26, 1961. (General Motors)
Harlow H. Curtice (Feb. 2, 1953 - Aug. 31, 1958)

He climbed from a bookkeeper’s desk to the top of the automobile world by sticking to an old formula of doing things the hard way.

As GM president for the most of the 1950s, Harlow Curtice led the corporation to unprecedented growth through the postwar boom years. When he took the job, many in the industry were bracing themselves for the possibility of an economic slowdown, as they believed that the postwar bubble was about to burst. By the time Curtice retired, GM was selling about 60% of all cars and trucks purchased by Americans.

In 1959, he accidentally shot and killed his dear friend, retired GM Vice President Harry Anderson, while on a hunting trip. This tragedy overwhelmed and consumed him during his final years. He died just over two years later in 1962 at the age of 69. (General Motors)
Frederic G. Donner (Sept. 1, 1958 - Oct. 31, 1967)

Donner was born Oct. 4, 1902, in Three Oaks, Mich., a rural community in the southwestern corner of the state, a few miles from both Lake Michigan and the Indiana line.

During his tenure, GM’s board of directors was reorganized to add outside representation. He also oversaw record sales and profits at the corporation.

Frederic G. Donner died Feb. 28, 1987. (General Motors)
James M. Roche (Nov. 1, 1967 - Dec. 31, 1971)
Roche, who was born in Elgin, Ill., on Dec. 16, 1906, attended elementary school there and graduated from Elgin High School in 1923. A college education was not possible, since, after his father died during the 1918 flu epidemic, he had to work to help support his family.

His long association with the sales end of the automotive business gave him a keen understanding of the customer’s desires and the firm belief that maximum customer satisfaction and product quality must be achieved in every phase of GM’s operations.

James Roche died June 6, 2004, at his home in Belleair, Fla. He was 97. (General Motors)
Richard C. Gerstenberg (Jan. 1, 1972 - Nov. 30, 1974)
Gerstenber was born on Nov. 24, 1909, at Little Falls, N.Y., attended high school in Mohawk, N.Y., and graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in 1931.

Gerstenberg was chosen by the board because his strengths as a money manager and an articulate defender of the increasingly criticized auto industry were viewed as necessary to handle the problems GM looked to face in the coming years.

Gerstenberg died July 11, 2002, at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. He was 92. (General Motors)
Thomas A. Murphy (Dec. 1, 1974 - Dec. 31, 1980)
Murphy, born Dec. 10, 1915, in Hornell, N.Y., attended Leo High School in Chicago and received a degree in accounting from the University of Illinois in 1938.

Murphy was elected vice chairman of the board of directors and a member of the finance and executive committees on Jan. 1, 1972, the same day Richard Gerstenberg was elected chairman and chief executive.

Less than two years later, he was elected chairman of the board of General Motors and chief executive of the corporation.

He died Jan. 18, 2006, at his home in Boynton Beach, Fla. He was 90. (General Motors)
Roger B. Smith (Jan. 1, 1981 - July 31, 1990)
Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Michigan with his family at the age of 3.

He led General Motors through a very difficult period for the American automobile industry as the corporation tried desperately to maintain its profits in the face of ever-increasing competition. GM’s share of the American market fell from 46% in 1980 to 35% in 1990 as the numbered of cars built by foreign manufacturers and imported into the United States grew by leaps and bounds.

Roger Smith died Nov. 29, 2007, in suburban Detroit. He was 82. (General Motors)
Robert C. Stempel (Aug. 1, 1990 - Nov. 1, 1992)
Stempel was born July 15, 1933, in Trenton, N.J.

He had served as executive vice president of General Motors and a member of the corporation’s board of directors since Feb. 3, 1986. In that position he had responsibility for both the worldwide truck and bus group and the overseas group.

At the time of his election to the GM board of directors, he was vice president and group executive in charge of the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group, a post he had held since January 1984.

In Aug. 31, 2007, he retired as Energy Conversion Devices Inc.'s chief executive. (General Motors)
John F. Smith Jr. (Nov. 2, 1992 - May 31, 2000)
Smith was born April 6, 1938, in Worcester, Mass. He received his bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1960 and a master of business administration from Boston University in 1965.

Smith was elected to replace Lloyd Reuss as president and chief operating officer of GM on April 6, 1992, during a period of financial crisis for the corporation. On Nov. 2 of that year, he was elected chief executive and president of General Motors. He continued to serve in a dual capacity as president for nearly two years after being elected chairman of the board in 1996. (General Motors)
G. Richard “Rick” Wagoner Jr. (May 1, 2003 - March 29, 2009)

Rick Wagoner was born in Wilmington, Del., on Feb. 9, 1953, and raised in Richmond, Va. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke University in 1975 and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1977.

Wagoner was elected GM chairman and chief executive on May 1, 2003. He had been president and chief executive since June 2000. (General Motors)