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About the Author's Father,
(March 28, 1912 - November 24, 2004)
William Howard Taft McGaughey Sr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 28, 1912. He was so named because 1912 was a presidential election year and his father, a medical doctor, was an ardent Republican. His father, Samuel, and mother, Martha, had four children: Paul, John, William, and Mary Jane. Paul died during the influenza epidemic of 1918 while his father was serving out east as an army doctor. The family lived in Acton, an Indianapolis suburb, and on East Washington Street near Butler University. Young Bill McGaughey had a large newspaper route.
Doctor Samuel McGaughey suddenly dropped dead in downtown Indianapolis in 1931. Bill McGaughey, who was then a student at Depauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, dropped out of college for several years to help support the family. He returned to Depauw and graduated with the class of 1934. He was editor of the college newspaper and a member of the college fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. Previously, he had been a police reporter with the Indianapolis Star. One of his more colorful assignments for that newspaper was to cover the burial ceremony of the gangster John Dillinger in a cemetery near Indianapolis.
Straight after graduation, McGaughey joined the Wall Street Journal in New York City as a staff reporter. One of its editors, K.C. Hogate, recruited young men from Depauw to write for that newspaper including Bernard Kilgore (later its top editor) and Buren McCormack. McGaughey was briefly the banking editor. The Depauw graduates led the Wall Street Journal to national prominence.
A corporate history of the Wall Street Journal describes McGaughey as "a talented rewrite man". He stayed with that newspaper for several years, leaving for a public-relations position with Western Electric, an AT&T subsidiary. The Depauw group, including Kilgore, kept in touch through summers spent in vacation homes at Twin Lakes, Pennsylvania.
While living in New York City, McGaughey occasionally saw his older cousin Mary Tomlinson who was an actress appearing in Broadway productions. She later went to Hollywood to star in MGM productions. As "Marjorie Main", she was famous for her role as Ma Kettle in a series of comic films in the 1950s.
Bill McGaughey spotted Joan Durham, whom he had known slightly at Depauw, while walking down Broadway in New York City. She was then a newspaper reporter and columnist with the Associated Press. They renewed their acquaintance, dated, and then were married at St. Barthlomew's Episcopal church on November 18, 1939.
Shortly after their wedding, Bill and Joan McGaughey moved to Detroit, Michigan, where McGaughey assumed a position as director of public relations for the Automobile Manufacturers Association. The managing director was George Romney. This was a time when the automobile industry was converting to war production. McGaughey was also public-relations director of the Automotive Council for War Production working under Romney. During this period, McGaughey published a book, "Roll out the Tanks", which was a spy thriller about Nazis infiltrating armaments factories in Detroit.
Initially living in the Palmer Park neighborhood of Detroit in a rented apartment at 999 Whitmore, the McGaughey's bought a house in the Indian Village neighborhood at 2224 Seminole Avenue on the east side of Detroit Their first child, Bill Jr., was born on February 21, 1941. Then came Andrew, born on June 30, 1942; David, born on June 26, 1944; and Margaret, born on May 29, 1948.
McGaughey did not serve in the U.S. armed forces because his position with the Automotive Council was deemed an essential service to aid the war effort. Detroit's factories later became known as "the Arsenal of Democracy". After victory was won in Europe and Japan, the automobile industry, which had manufactured tanks and airplanes, converted back to production of automobiles just in time to satisfy a huge pent-up demand for consumer goods.
As director of public-relations for the Automobile Manufacturers Association (which at that time did not include Ford), McGaughey took part in numerous civic events. He directed the public-relations effort for the Automobile Golden Jubilee in 1946, which commemorated the 75th anniversary of the first car. It was a major undertaking by the City of Detroit, bringing together for the last time industry pioneers such as Barney Oldsfield and Henry Ford. Later, McGaughey played a leading role in the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Detroit's founding in 1701.
In 1948, Bill McGaughey and his wife, Joan, flew to England where they personally met with Winston Churchill for the purpose of persuading the former Prime Minister to attend a celebration in honor of the 100 millionth car produced in the United States. While this effort was unsuccessful, they received a Christmas greeting from Churchill and kept in touch with his staff.
George Romney left the Automobile Manufacturers Association to become vice president of Nash-Kelvinator Company, the nation's fourth largest automobile manufacturer. He recruited McGaughey to join him at that firm in 1953. Nash-Kelvinator merged with the Hudson Automobile Company to form American Motors Corporation. Shortly afterwards, George Mason, the company's CEO, died. George Romney took his place. McGaughey, one of Romney's close associates, assumed responsibility for management development, stockholder relations, and public relations. In the 1956, he was named Vice President in charge of Communications.
One of McGaughey's duties was to review the company's advertising plans. The advertising agency had made certain recommendations to sponsor television shows. McGaughey (with his wife's help) spotted a prospective show far down the list of recommendations and decided to support it. That show was Disneyland. American Motors became its first major sponsor. McGaughey flew to Los Angeles to negotiate with Walt Disney. American Motors also sponsored an exhibit at the original Disneyland theme park in Anaheim.
Disneyland was a smash success. With George Romney as pitch man, the American public became acquainted with the advantages of Rambler automobiles, including its "unit-body construction". Holding a clay model of a dinosaur in his hand, Romney lambasted the "gas-guzzling dinosaurs" produced by the Big Three competitors. Sales of Rambler automobiles soared in the late 1950s. The Big Three decided to imitate its success. The "compact-car revolution" was underway.
McGaughey was general chairman of the National Automobile Show held in New York City in 1956. McGaughey had first to persuade the chairman of General Motors to participate in an industry-wide show rather than continuing its own product show. In 1959, American Motors placed a Rambler in front of a model home at the Moscow Exhibition and a Kelvinator refrigerator in its kitchen. The "kitchen debate" between Khrushchev and Nixon took place inside this home.
George Romney left American Motors to run for Governor of Michigan. Romney first led a campaign called "Con-Con" to amend Michigan's state constitution. McGaughey helped Romney organize events around the state. He personally invited former Presidents Eisenhower and Truman to attend. He also substituted for Romney on a panel convened by President Kennedy. (Romney was a prospective opponent in Kennedy's 1964 reelection bid, reportedly the one whom Kennedy feared most. Kennedy's assassination eliminated that possibility.)
George Romney was elected Governor by a narrow margin in 1962, serving the first of three two-year terms. A liberal Republican, he was briefly a candidate for President in 1968 but dropped out when polls in New Hampshire showed him losing to Richard Nixon. Romney served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Nixon's cabinet.
McGaughey remained a Vice President of American Motors after Romney left the firm. In one of his more interesting assignments, he arranged for American Motors to buy the Times Square building in New York City at an advantageous price. However, the company's Board of Directors turned down the deal. McGaughey also made the first contact with France's Renault automobile company which sought joint production and marketing arrangements with American Motors in the United States. Renault later purchased a controlling interest in American Motors.
In 1963, McGaughey left American Motors to join the National Association of Manufacturers in New York City. The family moved to New York, living first on 50th Street and then on East 86th Street. McGaughey became Senior Vice President of the NAM. He was chiefly responsible for overseeing the association's annual "Congress of Industry" which brought thousands of business leaders and their wives to New York.
The Congress held in 1970 commemorated the NAM's 75th anniversary. President Richard Nixon was the featured speaker. McGaughey had previously met Nixon when he invited the Vice President to speak at an event in Detroit put on by the automobile companies.
The National Association of Manufacturers moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s. Bill and Joan McGaughey bought a condominium at Harbor Square in southeast Washington. Their neighbors included U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey and Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell. The McGaugheys were active in issues-discussion groups and in activities of the NAM.
After retiring from the NAM in 1975, Bill McGaughey worked for Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), the original business PAC. He mainly raised money for the group. Joan McGaughey wrote columns for a Milford, Pennsylvania newspaper, titled "Beyond the Beltway", which reported events in the nation's capitol. The McGaugheys toured China in 1978, met the U.S. ambassador to China (Leonard Woodcock, a former union leader), and wrote up their experiences in a cover story for the Conference Board's publication.
Bill and Joan McGaughey moved from Washington, D.C., to Milford in the early 1980s. They owned a house in Milford which had been built for Joan McGaughey's grandparents in the 1880s. Bill McGaughey was on the town's planning commission. The McGaugheys and their son, David, also played an active role in Pike Environmental Defenders, which sought to maintain the cleanliness of the Sawkill creek. This creek ran through wooded property that they owned in Milford.
Bill McGaughey remained in relatively good health until about 1997 when he fell down on an icy pavement near his home and cracked his hip. A metal pin placed in his hip during surgery caused major pain so he had another operation to replace the pin. These various ordeals impaired his mobility. After undergoing heart bypass surgery and hospitalization, his leg muscles deteriorated.
Joan McGaughey, who had survived colon cancer in mid 1980s, experienced a recurrence of this in 1999. While her colon was removed, she decided not to pursue radiation treatment or chemotherapy. She moved from the Milford house to the Milford Convalescence Center five miles north of town. She died on April 6, 2001, after almost two years of confinement in bed.
William McGaughey was moved from the Milford house to the Milford Convalescence Center, to Mercy hospital in Port Jervis, New York, and finally to the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center near Newton, New Jersey. On the evening of Wednesday, November 24, 2004, around 11: 00 p.m., McGaughey died in bed at the Andover nursing home.
William McGaughey was a kind man, personally outgoing (as suits a former newspaper reporter), and someone who had a way with words. He liked to sit in a chair and read books or newspapers. He was a family man who bore his share of troubles. But, in many ways, McGaughey also led a privileged life. He celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary and lived to be 92 years of age. He held an important position in the nation's premier industry, the automobile industry, when it was at the apex of its influence and power. He and his wife Joan took many trips together: to Panama, post-war Europe, Mexico, Kenya, the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, among other places.
In view of the fact that his father died young, it is remarkable that McGaughey lived to a ripe old age. But he had exercised regularly in his younger days, did not smoke cigarettes, did not abuse alcohol, and had a relaxed attitude toward life. He enjoyed being sociable. He did not begrudge himself small pleasures. He exemplified his generation's idea of success. After all, he grew up in the Midwest during the Great Depression. He went east to seek his fortune in the big city and, to a large extent, found it.
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