AKA Willard Frederick Rockwell
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Location of death: Pittsburgh, PA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Party Affiliation: Republican
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Rockwell Automation
Military service: US Army Quartermaster Corps (WWI, to Colonel)
Willard Rockwell was the founder of two companies that became leaders in electronics, aviation, automotive products, and "everything from saws to parking meters". His legacy includes numerous bombers, the Rockwell Commander business aircraft, the NASA Space Shuttle, Navstar global positioning system satellites, Rockwell Semiconductor (maker of early microchips), Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile systems, and the control systems that operate the locks at the Panama Canal.
Rockwell was trained in engineering and worked for the Torbensen Axle Company, managing its Cleveland factory beginning in 1915. He purchased a bankrupt competitor, Hayes Machine Company of Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1919, renaming the firm Wisconsin Axle as it became the nation's leading supplier of double reduction axles for heavy-duty trucks. After a major contract was canceled in the recession in 1921, the company was left with an oversupply of axles that imperiled the firm's survival, and Rockwell vowed to diversify and never again be at the mercy of one industry or one customer. Wisconsin Axle became Rockwell Spring and Axle Company, and later Rockwell-Standard, a leading maker of numerous automotive components.
While running the business that would become Rockwell-Standard, Rockwell was also a rising executive at another company, Equitable Meter and Manufacturing Company, where he became President in 1925. He later purchased this company and renamed it Rockwell Manufacturing Company. In 1966 Rockwell-Standard acquired a larger competitor, North American Aviation, becoming North American Rockwell Corporation, and in 1973 Rockwell's two companies, North American Rockwell and Rockwell Manufacturing Company, merged to become Rockwell International. In 2001 Rockwell International was split into two separate entities, Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Collins.
Wife: Clara Whitcomb Thayer Rockwell (b. 19-Nov-1898, m. Jun-1908)
Daughter: Katherine Thayer Rockwell Potter
Daughter: Janet Ella Rockwell (b. 1911, d. 1973)
Son: Willard Frederick Rockwell, Jr. ("Al", Rockwell executive, b. 1914, d. 1992)
Daughter: Margaret Eleanor Rockwell Stuckeman
Daughter: Elizabeth Rockwell Raphael ("Betty", b. 1920, d. 1998)
University: BS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rockwell Automation President (1919-78)
Automotive Hall of Fame
Society of Automotive Engineers
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