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George W. Romney

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George Wilcken Romney (July 8, 1907-July 26, 1995) was an American businessman and politician. He was also the first president of the Detroit Stake (now the Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake). He also served as a Regional representative and a Patriarch in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Romney was born to American parents in Mormon colonies in Mexico. His family moved back to the United States when he was a child.

Background

George Wilcken Romney was born in Colonia Dublán, Galeana, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua to Gaskell Romney and his wife (m. Colonia Dublán, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico, February 20, 1895) Anna Amelia Pratt.[1]

Romney's grandparents fled the United States because of the persecution by the Federal government. Anna's father Helaman Pratt was the son of Parley P. Pratt. Anna's mother was Anna Johanna Dorothy ("Dora") Wilcken whose father had first come to Utah as part of Johnston's Army. Helaman had served as president of the Mexican mission in Mexico City before moving to the state of Chihuahua, and George's uncle Rey L. Pratt would be president of the Mexican mission, president in exile, during the Mexican Revolution and on into the 1930s.

George Romney lived in Colonia Dublan until he was about five. When the violence from the Mexican revolution reached disturbing levels in Chihuahua in 1912, Romney's family went to El Paso, Texas. They later moved several locations eventually ending up in Oakley, Idaho.

Gaskell's parents, Miles Park Romney (Nauvoo, Illinois, August 18, 1843–Colonia Dublán, Galeana, Chihuahua, February 26, 1904) and wife (m. Salt Lake City, Utah, May 10, 1862) Hannah Hood Hill (Tosorontio Township, Simcoe County, Ontario, July 9, 1842– Colonia Juárez|Chihuahua, December 29, 1928) were also LDS Church members, as were his mother Hannah's parents Archibald Newell Hill (Johnstone, Renfrewshire, August 20, 1816– Salt Lake City, Utah, January 2, 1900), also a polygamist, and wife (m. Toronto, Ontario, February 21, 1840) Isabella Hood (Toronto, Ontario, July 8, 1821– Winter Quarters, Florence, Nebraska, March 20, 1847). Finally, Miles' parents Miles Romney (Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire, July 13, 1806– St. George, Utah, May 3, 1877) and wife (m. Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire, November 16, 1830) Elizabeth Gaskell (Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire, January 8, 1809– St. George, Utah, October 11, 1884) were also converts to the LDS Church.[1] Romney's parents married in 1895; they had three older sons, Maurice, Douglas, and Miles, and a younger son, Lawrence.

Early life

Romney started working in sugar beet fields at the age of eleven[2]. He also learned the carpenters trade from his father. From 1926-1928, Romney served as a missionary in England and Scotland.

In the late 1920s, Romney followed his high school sweetheart, Lenore LaFount, to Washington, D.C., after her father had accepted a government position. Romney became a speechwriter for Massachusetts Senator David I. Walsh, then moved on to become a lobbyist for Alcoa in 1930. When Lenore LaFount, an aspiring actress, began earning bit roles in Hollywood movies, Romney arranged to be transferred to the western U.S. When Lenore had the opportunity to sign a three-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, Romney convinced her to return to Washington, and the couple married on July 2, 1931, in the Salt Lake City Temple. They had four children: Lynn, Jane, G. Scott, and Mitt.

Automobile industry

After nine years with Alcoa, Romney's career had stagnated, so he moved to Detroit with his wife and their two daughters to become the local manager of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA). During World War II, Romney headed the Automotive Council for War Production, which worked to optimize automotive companies' war production. Romney also served as president of the Detroit Trade Association in 1941. From 1946-1949 he served as a U.S. employer delegate to metal trades industry conferences.[3]

He rose to managing director of the AAMA, becoming good friends with then-president George W. Mason. When Mason became chairman of the manufacturing firm Nash-Kelvinator in 1948, he invited Romney along "to learn the business from the ground up" as his roving assistant.[4] As Mason's protégé, Romney assumed executive assignment for the development of the Rambler. Under the strategy of Mason, Nash-Kelvinator merged on May 1 1954 with Hudson Motor Car to become the American Motors Corporation (AMC), and Romney became Vice-President of the firm. A short time later, Mason suddenly died of acute pancreatitis and pneumonia—Romney was named AMC's Chairman and CEO.

Together with chief engineer Meade Moore, Romney elected to phase out the Nash and Hudson brands whose sales had been lagging. The Rambler brand was selected for development and promotion, as AMC pursued an innovative strategy: manufacturing compact cars exclusively. This approach led to unexpected financial success for AMC. In contrast with the racing success of the Hudson in the early 1950s, the Ramblers were frequent winners in the coast-to-coast Mobil Economy Run, an annual event on U.S. highways. As the other "Big Three" automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) introduced ever-larger models, AMC undertook a "dinosaur fighter" strategy, using its CEO as its spokesperson in advertisements and public appearances. Romney thus became one of the first high-profile media-savvy business executives. His focus on small cars as a challenge to AMC's domestic competitors, as well as the foreign-car invasion, was documented on the cover of Time magazine. In the earliest years of Rambler, the company had been on the verge of being taken over by corporate raider Louis Wolfson, but the company's resurgence made Romney a household name. He left AMC in 1962 to enter politics.[5]

At the same time he was serving as President of American Motors, George Romney also presided over the Detroit Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which included not only all of Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, and the Toledo area of Ohio but also the western edge of Ontario along the Michigan border. Due to the stake covering part of Canada, he often interacted with Canadian Mission President Thomas S. Monson.[6]

Political career

He led the Constitutional Convention that revised Michigan's Constitution from 1961-1962, then led a successful 1962 campaign for Governor of Michigan. However, his running mate was defeated by the Democratic incumbent, Thaddeus Lesinski.

After deciding to wait out the 1964 election, Romney announced on November 18 1967, that he had "decided to fight for and win the Republican nomination and election to the Presidency of the United States". Polls in 1967 showed him the leader among rank and file Republicans, especially among the "moderates." Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a factor in his campaign.

The infamous 12th Street riot in Detroit took place on July 23 1967. It continued until July 29 1967 and eventually escalated to the point where president Lyndon B. Johnson called in federal troops, perhaps dimming Romney's chances for the presidency.

Romney announced his withdrawal as a presidential candidate on February 28, 1968. At his party's national convention in Miami Beach, Romney finished a weak sixth with only fifty votes on the first ballot (44 of Michigan's 48, plus six from Utah).

Secretary of HUD

After Nixon's election, Romney was named to the cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He served in that office until the beginning of Nixon's second term in January 1973. During his four years at HUD, Romney slightly increased the amount of federally subsidized housing, but was prevented from expanding the concept to suburban areas.

One of Romney's initiatives was "Operation Breakthrough", which was intended to increase the amount of housing available to the poor.[7]

Public service

Romney was known as an advocate of public service. At the first meeting of the National Center for Voluntary Action (NCVA), February 20 1970, he said:

Americans have four basic ways of solving problems that are too big for individuals to handle by themselves. One is through the federal government. A second is through state governments and the local governments that the states create. The third is through the private sector - the economic sector that includes business, agriculture, and labor. The fourth method is the independent sector - the voluntary, cooperative action of free individuals and independent association. Voluntary action is the most powerful of these, because it is uniquely capable of stirring the people themselves and involving their enthusiastic energies, because it is their own - voluntary action is the people's action. As Woodrow Wilson said, "The most powerful force on earth is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people." Individualism makes cooperation worthwhile - but cooperation makes freedom possible.

The George W. Romney Institute of Public Management at Brigham Young University honors the legacy left by Romney.

Retirement

For much of the next two decades, he was out of the public eye. He was however prominent within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holding the office of regional representative of the Twelve.

He re-emerged to the general public in 1994 when he helped campaign for his son, Mitt Romney, during the younger Romney's unsuccessful bid to unseat Senator Edward M. Kennedy in Massachusetts. That same year, Ronna Romney, Romney's ex-daughter-in-law (formerly married to G. Scott Romney), decided to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Michigan while continuing to use her married name. The former governor showed his displeasure by endorsing her opponent, Spencer Abraham, who went on to win the primary and the general election.

The following year, Romney died of a heart attack at the age of eighty-eight while he was exercising on his treadmill; he was discovered by his wife Lenore but it was too late to save him. He died in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and was buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Brighton.

Romney was a patriarch for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The building housing the main office of the Michigan governor in Lansing is known as the George W. Romney Building.

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.wargs.com/political/romney.html Ancestry of Mitt Romney
  2. Sobel, Robert. Biographical Dictionary of the United States Executive Branch, 1774-1977 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1977) p. 290
  3. Sobel. Biographical Directory. p. 290
  4. Changes of the Week", Time Magazine, October 25, 1954. Accessed on January 3 2008.
  5. Peterson, Kathleen Lubeck (Fall 2007). "The Making of George Romney". Marriott Alumni Magazine: 16. 
  6. Statements by Monson in Stake Conference Broadcast, May 2006
  7. Sobel. Biographical Directory. p. 290-291

References

  • D. Duane Angel, Romney: A Political Biography (1967)
  • Hess, Stephen and David S. Broder. The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the G.O.P. New York : Harper & Row, 1967.
  • T. George Harris, Romney's Way: A Man and an Idea (1967)
  • Clark R. Mollenhoff, George Romney: Mormon in Politics (1968)
  • George W. Romney, Shirtsleeve Public Servant

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