A 1959 TIME Magazine honored the late great George Romney, the father of current presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The elder Romney had a very fascinating life story. He was the grandson of a some polygamous grandparents who faced persecution in the United States, so a large group of American Mormons were living in Mexico. But, these Mormons often faced violence from marauders and were at the mercy of political turmoil in Mexican politics as well. Romney’s family later moved to the United States when he was a boy.
George Romney was viewed as one of the greatest CEO’s in corporate America back during the 1950’s and into the early 60’s. The elder Romney was the first American automobile executive to sense that imports, chiefly Volkswagen at that time, were eventually going to make a big chip into American auto sales, even though gas prices were as low as .22-.35 cents back in those days. Under Romney’s helm, the American Motors Corporation was the first major American automobile manufacturer to get into the production and sales of smaller cars, phasing down larger car bodies.
The formation of American Motors Corporation back in 1954 was the largest corporate merger at the time, when Hudson, Nash, Studebaker and Packard all held talks to form a giant new company to compete with GM, Ford and Chrysler. Unfortunately, the financial health of Studebaker and Packard as well as some other problems made these other two companies appear too sickly to be part of this large merger, so Hudson and Nash proceeded on their own to form AMC.
Hudson had been known for building high quality large automobiles with extremely durable engines, while the Nash cars were often boxy looking, but functional designs. The end result was that Rambler cars were often not the most beautiful on the road, but were extremely long lasting with very durable engine designs that often offered close to 20mpg with thrifty 6 cylinder engine designs, sometimes for a little less than $1900. George Romney once was quoted as the “only race” that he wanted AMC “cars to win was the human race”.
Under George Romney’s leadership, AMC flourished as a company, but Romney decided to leave the company in 1962 and to run for Governor of Michigan where he gained a reputation as a moderate in the state with big Democratic voter majorities in cities such as Detroit. Romney ran for president twice in 1964 and 1968, but both campaigns faltered when Romney wasn’t viewed as a stronger campaigner. President Nixon appointed Romney the Secretary of HUD where he proposed progressive housing legislation to put low income persons into homes, often opposed by Nixon, so Romney quit at the beginning of the second Nixon term.
The elder Romney gained quite a reputation in business as well being America’s leading moderate Republican for a number of years. Being devoutly religious as well as growing up in depression era poverty, helped to shape a compassionate approach to politics as well as a sense of social responsibility where as much as Romney believed in automobiles, he condemned the other Detroit brands as producing “gas guzzling dinosaurs”.
Certainly, the son of George Romney has to stand on his own. But, George Romney was a great American business leader, politician and religious figure. This puts a lot of pressure on Mitt Romney to respect his father’s legacy and to always bring honor to the family history. But, so far the Romney family name has made a real difference to American business and politics both.