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Harlow Curtice

AKA Harlow Herbert Curtice

Born: 15-Aug-1893
Birthplace: Eaton Rapids, MI
Died: 3-Nov-1962
Location of death: Flint, MI
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Glenwood Cemetery, Flint, MI

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: President of General Motors, 1952-58

Military service: US Army (WWI)

Harlow "Red" Curtice was the eleventh president of General Motors. He earned his college tuition working as a short-order cook, fruit cart operator, and an office worker in a woolen mill. After graduation he answered a want ad and was hired by AC Spark Plugs, a GM subsidiary, as a bookkeeper. The next year he was promoted to comptroller, and he was named President of AC in 1929. Four years later he was appointed President of another GM subsidiary, Buick, where sales were so slow that some experts predicted he would oversee the nameplate's demise. He renegotiated the company's dealer contracts, and quickly revamped Buick's line-up of cars, introducing the Limited, Roadmaster, Century and Special models. Buick's sales doubled in the first year of his leadership, and more than octupled sales before World War II's arrival. After Pearl Harbor, Curtice took rapid charge of the conversion of Buick plants to the manufacture of dozens of military products for the war effort, most notably the M-18 Hellcat tank destroyer. After the war Buick quickly regrouped, becoming the leading nameplate in American auto sales with introduction of the Dynaflow automatic transmission.

Curtice was transferred to General Motors in 1948, as vice president in charge of all non-production activities except finance -- everything from research and development to styling to public relations. He was named Acting President of General Motors in 1952, and took the title formally the following Spring, succeeding Charles E. Wilson, who became Secretary of Defense under U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. While Curtice ran General Motors, the company built a top flight design and development facility in Warren, Michigan, made "tail fins" a staple of auto design, added optional air conditioning and the Corvette, and cornered 60% of the US market for cars and trucks. After General Motors became the first company to make more than a billion dollars in profits in one year, he was named Time's Man of the Year in 1955. During virtually his entire career with GM, Curtice lived in the company's headquarters, Flint, Michigan, driving only Buicks. He retired in 1958, but reappeared in headlines the following year, when he shot and killed a retired GM Vice President, Harry Anderson, in a duck-hunting accident. Curtice's older brother, LeRoy, was a paint and metal worker at GM's Fisher Body plant for his entire adult life, rising to become a factory inspector there.

Father: Marion Joel Curtice (fruit wholesaler)
Mother: Mary Ellen Eckhart Curtice
Brother: LeRoy Curtice (auto worker)
Wife: (m., at least one daughter)

    High School: Eaton Rapids High School, Eaton Rapids, MI (1910)
    University: BA Business, Ferris State University (1914)

    Time Person of the Year 1955
    General Motors President (1952-58)
    General Motors Vice President (1948-52)
    Buick Motor Co. President (1933-48)
    AC Spark Plug Co. President (1929-33)
    AC Spark Plug Co. Comptroller (1915-29)
    AC Spark Plug Co. Bookkeeper (1914-15)
    English Ancestry

Appears on the cover of:
Time, 1-Nov-1954, DETAILS: General Motors' Curtice
Time, 2-Jan-1956, DETAILS: Harlow Curtice: Time's Man of the Year


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