McElroy, Neil H. (Neil Hosler), 1904-1972

Alternative names
Birth 1904-10-30
Death 1972-11-30

Biographical notes:

Business executive, Cabinet officer.

From the description of Reminiscences of Neil Hosler McElroy : oral history, 1967. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 86131607

Neil Hosler McElroy (1904-1972), business executive and secretary of defense, was born in Berea, Ohio. He graduated from Harvard University B.A. degree in 1925. He immediately went to work as a junior clerk for the advertising department of Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio, and after four years he was promoted to director of promotions. In 1948, he was elected president of Procter and Gamble, a post he held until August 7, 1957. During these years, McElroy became well known as an innovative promoter and a successful administrator. He continued and expanded the company''s enlightened labor policies, such as guaranteed year-round employment, uniform five-day work weeks, paid vacations, disability benefits, generous pensions, profit sharing, and employee input on company policy. In 1940, he was one of the first to conceive of the idea of fostering competition among the company''s own products--at the time, a radical concept but today common practice. In addition, McElroy expanded Procter and Gamble by opening new factories in the United States and overseas. During his tenure, the company''s annual income exceeded $100 million for the first time. Over the years, McElroy had been a willing public servant, providing informal advice to President Eisenhower on foreign and defense policy during the 1950''s. On August 7, 1957, President Eisenhower officially selected him to succeed Charles Erwin Wilson as his second Secretary of Defense. McElroy served as Secretary for twenty-six months. During his tenure, he became the first official to raise the Cold War issue of a "missile gap" with the Soviet Union. The debate over whether there really was a gap dominated the last years of the second Eisenhower administration. Not only did McElroy preside over the Defense Department during an era of vast changes in U.S. military posture, but four months after his appointment the United States launched its first space satellite. When he resigned for financial reasons in December 1959, the rocket age and space race were well under way. He was replaced by Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Immediately after his resignation, McElroy became chairman of the board of Procter and Gamble, the second chair to serve since the death of William Cooper Procter in 1934. He served in this capacity until 1972. In addition, he was on the boards of directors of General Electric and Chrysler. In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon appointed McElroy chairman of an eighteen-member President''s Commission on School Finance that was to conduct a two-year study on ways to improve funding for American education. The final report recommended that states take over funding to alleviate the disparity between rich and poor school districts. The same plan was resurrected by Presidents Bush and Clinton in the 1990''s.

From the description of McElroy, Neil H. (Neil Hosler), 1904-1972 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10677882


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  • Artificial satellites
  • Guided missiles
  • Cabinet officers--Interviews
  • Executives--Interviews


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  • United States (as recorded)