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George Lewis

Pioneering corporate executive George Ralph Lewis was born on March 7, 1941, in Burgess, Virginia, a small Chesapeake Bay fishing village. His mother, Edith Toulson Lewis, was a homemaker, and his father, Spencer Lewis, was very enterprising and held several jobs to support his family, including working on the docks, cooking and later, starting his own business renovating homes. Expected by his parents and community to go to college, Lewis enrolled at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. Following his first year of college, Lewis spent the summer working for his uncle, a Philadelphia restaurant owner. Delivering food downtown, Lewis overheard businessmen talking about their deals, and he decided to pursue a career in business. Returning to school that fall, Lewis changed his major to accounting and earned his B.S. degree in 1963. Later, in 1968, he earned his M.B.A. degree from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.

Lewis’ first major job was with General Foods Corporation as a sales analyst for the Kool-Aid division in New York. In 1966, he moved to W.R. Grace, a specialty chemical company, where he worked as a financial analyst. In 1967, Philip Morris hired Lewis as a corporate analyst, and the next year, he became a senior planning analyst. He was promoted to Manager of Industrial Relations in 1970, Manager of Financial Services in 1972 and Assistant Treasurer in 1973. In 1975, Lewis became Treasurer and Vice President of Financial & Planning for Philip Morris Industrial, a subsidiary company. In 1982, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he worked for a different subsidiary, the Seven-Up Company, as Vice President of Finance. After two years, Lewis returned to the parent company, Philip Morris Companies, Inc., as Vice President and Treasurer. At that time, one of the highest-ranking blacks in finance, he was in charge of Philip Morris’ worldwide treasury activities. He oversaw the company’s takeover of General Foods in 1985 and of Kraft in 1988. In 1997, Lewis became President and CEO of Philip Morris Capital Company, the finance and investment subsidiary of Philip Morris. He retired from this position in 2001.

Lewis has received numerous awards for his pioneering business achievements. Both Iona College and Hampton University have recognized him, and in 2000, he received a CNN Trumpet Tower of Power Award. In 2006, the Jackie Robinson Foundation honored him with a lifetime achievement award. He has served on the boards of several large corporations and organizations, including the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, where he became the board’s first black member in 1995.

George Lewis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 7, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.247

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/7/2007

Last Name

Lewis

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Ralph

Occupation
Schools

Hampton University

New York University

Iona College

Julius Rosenwald High School

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Burgess

HM ID

LEW12

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Dominican Republic, Rome

Favorite Quote

Stay Focused.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/7/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens, Seafood

Short Description

Corporate executive George Lewis (1941 - ) was President and CEO of the Philip Morris Capital Company from 1997 to 2001.

Employment

General Foods Corporation

W.R. Grace & Co.

Philip Morris Incorporated

Philip Morris Industrial

7-Up Company

Philip Morris Capitol Corporation

MALCO, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:318,4:848,10:1590,18:18536,159:19319,171:21615,187:22040,193:33433,312:34927,348:36753,364:37583,376:38662,403:41180,408:44257,486:46074,501:49493,528:52981,586:62760,654:74124,836:81745,887:88808,949:99010,1202:105762,1241:106664,1256:107402,1267:107812,1273:109698,1324:110108,1330:112404,1426:112896,1433:127085,1645:129624,1666:132864,1694:133328,1699:134720,1749:143474,1830:170200,2030:173896,2191:174512,2206:178640,2253$0,0:476,13:21288,201:24760,218:25760,231:32399,343:32691,348:38850,399:41900,421:44600,469:144430,1399:161138,1570:161878,1582:174615,1683:175480,1693
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Lewis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Lewis lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Lewis describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Lewis shares the history of Burgess, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Lewis describes his mother's activities and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Lewis talks about his mother and maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Lewis describes his father's professions

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Lewis talks about his father's investments

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George Lewis describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George Lewis describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George Lewis describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - George Lewis describes the community of Burgess, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Lewis talks about segregation in Burgess, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Lewis describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Lewis describes his home life

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Lewis remembers the Shiloh Baptist Church in Reedville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Lewis describes his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George Lewis recalls celebrating the holidays with his family

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George Lewis describes the sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George Lewis remembers his elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - George Lewis describes his experiences at Julius Rosenwald High School in Reedville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - George Lewis recalls his decision to attend the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - George Lewis remembers changing his major from medicine to accounting

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Lewis talks about his early business aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Lewis describes the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on Corporate America

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Lewis recalls being hired by the General Foods Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Lewis describes his experiences at the General Foods Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Lewis remembers earning an M.B.A. degree

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Lewis recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Lewis talks about working for W.R. Grace and Company

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George Lewis describes his career goals and responsibilities at W.R. Grace and Company

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George Lewis recalls joining Philip Morris, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Lewis talks about balancing his home life and career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George Lewis recalls his experiences at Philip Morris Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George Lewis describes his promotion to assistant treasurer at Philip Morris, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George Lewis recalls his role as assistant treasurer of Philip Morris, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George Lewis talks about the reputation of Philip Morris Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George Lewis talk about his career at Philip Morris, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George Lewis remembers learning to golf

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George Lewis describes the country clubs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - George Lewis recalls cofounding MALCO, Inc. with Wayne Embry

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - George Lewis recalls becoming the CFO of 7-Up in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George Lewis recalls becoming the treasurer of Philip Morris Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George Lewis describes his colleagues at Philip Morris Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George Lewis describes his responsibilities at Philip Morris Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George Lewis recalls the racial discrimination at country clubs in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George Lewis talks about the integration of New York City's country clubs

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George Lewis recalls serving on the advisory board of the PGA of America

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George Lewis talks about the role of golf in the business community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George Lewis recalls being promoted to CFO of the Philip Morris Capital Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George Lewis describes the Philip Morris Capital Corporation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George Lewis talks about the anti-smoking campaign against Philip Morris USA

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George Lewis describes Philip Morris Inc.'s international brands

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George Lewis reflects upon his retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George Lewis describes his board memberships

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George Lewis talks about his retirement activities

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - George Lewis talks about his daughter's marriage to Spike Lee

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - George Lewis describes his family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - George Lewis remembers his co-recipients of the CNN Trumpet Tower of Power Award

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - George Lewis talks about his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - George Lewis reflects upon the position of African Americans in Corporate America

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - George Lewis talks about notable African American business executives

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - George Lewis reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - George Lewis narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
George Lewis recalls being hired by the General Foods Corporation
George Lewis recalls becoming the treasurer of Philip Morris Inc.
Transcript
You chose General Foods [General Foods Corporation]?$$Yeah, I, I got, as I said I got an interview at General Foods and--White Plains, New York and had, had a full day of interviews. My first interview was in the Jell-O division. I spent pretty much the full day there and I wasn't sure the interview had gone that well. I had thought that they were just going through the exercise because they were told that they had to interview some African Americans, but I, I wasn't quite sure that they were serious, and I didn't see, didn't see anybody that looked me during the interviewing process, and I happened to be sitting in the lobby of General Foods waiting for a cab going back to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] because it was in the, going back to Hampton [Hampton Institute; Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia] quite frankly and this black woman walked through the lobby, and she said, "Who are you?" And I said, I told her who I was and she said, "But why are you here?" I told her I had gotten an interview with Jell-O and I didn't think it had gone that well, I just didn't think they were serious about it, I just thought someone had told them they had to interview African Americans. She said, "I'm manager of--," I forgot her title, she was manager of human resources at the corporate area. She was the only black person at General Foods at that time (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Do you remember her name?$$Eileen Johnson [Eileen Williams Johnson], I will never forget her as long as I live and I've kept in contact. She died about five years ago, but I've kept in contact, I did keep in contact with her, and she said, "Sit here, we're gonna do something for you." So she came back, and she said, "I'm gonna have to give you a little test, a little quiz." So she gave me a test, you know different kinds of multiple choices, and little math problems and I did that and then she said, "I'm gonna have you interview the comptroller for the Kool-Aid division." Interviewed the comptroller he had me interview some others, went back to her and she said, "We're gonna get this done before you leave." So by the time I left there I had a job. If it had not been for that black woman, I would not have gotten the job at General Foods.$What are you asked to return to New York [New York] to do?$$It was a big job and I was, I was very, very surprised at the time when I got the call. It was to come back to New York as a corporate vice president to be, which is the first corporate vice president at Philip Morris Companies, Inc. [Philip Morris Inc.; Altria Group, Inc.], to be vice president and treasurer of Philip Morris Companies which at the time was from a profitability point, the seventh largest corporation in the world, and I was to be in charge of all world-wide treasury activities. You know we do business, we did businesses in every country you can imagine, so I had to manage currencies, I had to manage bank relations, I had to manage pension funds, I had to manage credits revolvers, big, big position. So when I got it, when I got the call, I called my partner in Milwaukee [Wisconsin], Wayne [HistoryMaker Wayne Embry], and I said, you know, I'm not sure this is gonna work, because I am, I have to take this. I said, "This is a first, there are no African American treasurers in the Fortune 100 and I don't think in the Fortune 500. It is an opportunity that I have got to do, so I'm gonna be going to New York and with MALCO [MALCO, Inc.], I'll give you as much time as I can, but I can tell you that certainly initially this job is going to consume just all my time," and he said, "No you gotta take it, you gotta do it, and you know if you can make some of the meetings, I'll just hold it down." Wayne is, Wayne is a super guy, he, we had a great relationship. So, so we came back to New York in 1984, came back as treasurer of Philip Morris, and it was fantastic. It was, it was, it was wonderful.

W. Frank Fountain

Born in Brewton, Alabama, on July 17, 1944, W. Frank Fountain, Jr., was the eldest of Willie Frank and Janie Fountain’s seven children. The Fountain family ran a small farm in Tunnel Springs, Alabama, where Fountain learned the value of “working hard and working smart;” he brought those skills with him to Hampton University, where he earned his B.A. degree in history and political science in 1966.

From 1966 to 1968, Fountain served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Bengal, India, where he employed the lessons he had learned on his family’s farm to aid in the improvement of agricultural techniques. In India Fountain also worked with craftspeople to extend their base of customers through innovative marketing strategies.

In 1973, Fountain received his M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and accepted the position of Investment Analyst at Chrysler Corporation. Over the next twenty years, Fountain rose through the ranks, working in the Corporate Controller’s Office, the Treasurer’s Office, and the Government Affairs Office in Washington, D.C.

In 1995, Fountain was appointed vice president for government affairs, and in 1998 he became the senior vice president for government affairs for DaimlerChrysler. In this capacity, Fountain was able to combine his academic training with his business experience while he maintained communication between DaimlerChrsyler and government officials. Fountain’s position also enabled him to exercise his commitment to community service, due to his responsibilities for community relations and educational programs, and his service as president of the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund.

Fountain further demonstrated his commitment to service through his activities as chairman of the board for the Corporate Council on Africa, Hampton University, and the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education. Fountain served as vice chairman of the board for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce; Citizens Research Council of Michigan; and New Detroit, Inc. Fountain was also a board member of Africare; the Wharton School of Business; the Museum of African American History; and the Hudson-Webber Foundation. For his contributions to society, Fountain was awarded an honorary doctorate of public service from Central Michigan University.

Accession Number

A2005.030

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/31/2005

5/24/2005

Last Name

Fountain

Maker Category
Middle Name

Frank

Occupation
Schools

Spencer Bibbs Elementary School

Rosenwald Junior High School

J F Shields High School

Hampton University

Antioch Church School

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

First Name

W.

Birth City, State, Country

Brewton

HM ID

FOU02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/17/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Corporate executive W. Frank Fountain (1944 - ) was the senior vice president for government affairs for DaimlerChrysler.

Employment

Chrysler Corporation

DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund

Peace Corps

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:213,4:1136,21:5183,144:5538,150:5964,157:9000,170:10100,181:12130,193:12414,198:13124,209:13763,219:14980,224:15940,237:25715,352:26254,360:26870,379:27640,391:28410,402:28872,409:29334,416:31952,461:32414,468:36248,485:38458,495:39144,503:39634,509:42538,521:44173,536:46655,577:49794,636:51108,657:54470,669:55190,685:55670,695:57724,718:57996,723:58404,730:59968,767:62678,794:64778,839:66878,882:70681,909:70957,914:71440,923:71716,928:72130,935:72544,942:73510,959:74269,973:79290,1031:80010,1046:80610,1078:81090,1088:81510,1096:84081,1115:84519,1122:88534,1206:89264,1217:93863,1320:99640,1385:100719,1399:101300,1408:102213,1421:102960,1441:104039,1455:107193,1505:107857,1515:109434,1543:110264,1554:111177,1568:117274,1590:118102,1601:119114,1615:122242,1660:123622,1679:124358,1692:128364,1711:128754,1717:129690,1734:130002,1739:134821,1789:135259,1795:143375,1933:145130,2018:145715,2029:148445,2087:149160,2099:152020,2127$0,0:728,10:1768,25:2704,35:3848,56:5512,77:8860,169:9250,176:10030,197:10745,209:11200,218:11590,225:12435,240:19695,299:20140,305:27978,404:28363,410:35690,438:36536,448:37382,462:38134,473:41506,490:42010,495:50502,580:51558,594:53930,607:55658,634:58310,656:72618,771:76120,787:77134,804:78070,817:78616,826:79630,843:82078,853:82526,862:86943,914:91352,958:92957,977:94990,982:96899,1056:105428,1149:106416,1172:117857,1271:118245,1276:118633,1281:119215,1288:121878,1309:122498,1320:122932,1328:123490,1340:123738,1347:124172,1355:124916,1369:127148,1447:127458,1453:129920,1471:130396,1480:133252,1543:134612,1572:138357,1608:143257,1669:143589,1674:145560,1691:147030,1722:153130,1768:156995,1831:157409,1838:159972,1873:165938,1943:168310,1953:168655,1959:169345,1972:173465,2037:174570,2055:176355,2076:176865,2084:181824,2139:185657,2188:186854,2219:189834,2254:192750,2264:193362,2278:194654,2307:194926,2315:199998,2353:201802,2385:202622,2397:204098,2419:205246,2443:206066,2456:212598,2525:213060,2534:213456,2541:214842,2566:221191,2633:222010,2644:222465,2654:222829,2659:224012,2678:230474,2727:231194,2738:231770,2748:232346,2757:232850,2765:233426,2774:235974,2812:236309,2819:243382,2924:244318,2942:247558,2997:247918,3003:257418,3104:258178,3116:259014,3133:264922,3216:269778,3269:273348,3315:275196,3362:276390,3373
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating for W. Frank Fountain's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain describes his father's hometown

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain describes his paternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain describes his father's personality, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain describes his father's personality, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his father's family history of farming

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his parents' meeting and his family's move to Tunnel Springs, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - W. Frank Fountain lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - W. Frank Fountain remembers the woman who cared for him during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his neighbor's impact on his education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain recalls his early school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his relationship with his neighbor and childhood caregiver

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain talks about returning to Pensacola, Florida over the years

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain describes the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain describes his chores and interests growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain describes his transition to life in Tunnel Springs, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain describes the house he lived in as a teenager in Tunnel Springs, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of W. Frank Fountain's interview, session 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the schools he attended growing up

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain recalls his school and family responsibilities while growing up

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain describes the social dynamics at Monroe County Training School in Beatrice, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his dating life at Monroe County Training School in Beatrice, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain talks about applying and being accepted to Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain talks about experiencing classism as a young man

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain reflects on his motivations for overcoming adversity

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - W. Frank Fountain explains his motivation for pursuing a college education

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - W. Frank Fountain shares his initial impressions of Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain describes the atmosphere at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his social and academic experience at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain remembers student teaching during his senior year of college

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his motivation to become a Foreign Service officer

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain describes the books that sparked his desire to become a Foreign Service officer

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain describes his experience in the Fidi Amici social club, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain remembers his experience in the Fidi Amici social club, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the conservative administration at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain reflects on his years at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain shares his thoughts about historically black colleges and universities

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain talks about joining the Peace Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain explains why he hoped to be assigned to Thailand with the Peace Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain remembers his time in India with the Peace Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain describes his work with the Peace Corps in India

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain compares growing up on a farm with his Peace Corps work in India

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain recounts his achievements with the Peace Corps in India

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain describes his impressions of India's government and society

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain explains why he turned down a job with USAID

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain describes his transition into business

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain remembers his initial experiences in business

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain explains his decision to attend Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain describes his experiences at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain explains his interest in working with Chrysler Corporation

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain reflects on the trajectory of African Americans in business

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain speaks about notable black alumnae from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain talks about African Americans entering the business world

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain shares his thoughts on how African American business leaders can gain economic power

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain reflects on his black empowerment efforts within the business world

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain remembers forming his middle-management executive mentorship group

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his middle-management executive mentorship group

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain describes the composition of his middle-management executive mentorship group

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain explains how he succeeded in business without a traditional mentor

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - W. Frank Fountain shares his thoughts about advancing in a business career

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain remembers the economic downturn of 1974

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain recalls surviving the economic slump at the Chrysler Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain talks about working on a business plan assessment for Chrysler Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain remembers the lead-up to the Chrysler Corporation's 1979 government bailout, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain remembers the lead-up to the Chrysler Corporation's 1979 government bailout, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the significance of the Chrysler Corporation bailout in 1979

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the first minivans developed by the Chrysler Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain explains the timeline for producing a new line of cars

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s and early 1990s

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain recalls his appointment to the Washington government affairs office of DaimlerChrysler

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain describes his tenure as executive director of government affairs at DaimlerChrysler

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain explains how he was elected vice president of government affairs for DaimlerChrysler

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his philanthropic responsibilities as vice president for government affairs of DaimlerChrysler

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - W. Frank Fountain reflects on his achievements as senior vice president for government affairs with DaimlerChrysler

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - W. Frank Fountain talks about successfully surviving the Daimler-Chrysler merger

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - W. Frank Fountain talks about serving as chair on the board of Corporate Council on Africa

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - W. Frank Fountain talks about his philanthropic work with the Detroit Public Schools system

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - W. Frank Fountain shares his vision for economic empowerment of the black community

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the Executive Leadership Council, pt.1

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - W. Frank Fountain talks about the Executive Leadership Council, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - W. Frank Fountain reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - W. Frank Fountain describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

10$6

DAStory

2$8

DATitle
W. Frank Fountain describes his tenure as executive director of government affairs at DaimlerChrysler
W. Frank Fountain recounts his achievements with the Peace Corps in India
Transcript
But this was totally different in many ways because (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, totally.$$Totally.$$Yeah, this is about lobbying; it's about public policy; it's government relations. It's completely different than what I left, what I was doing.$$But it was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Completely in a sense that we had done in my, in my finance days, I had gotten involved in conducting public policy analysis, understanding what [Lee] Iacocca's issues were, and how he wanted to promote those issues. My group, I had a group called competitive analysis at one time, was a part of my responsibility. And we knew how to package what Lee was looking for better than the people in Washington [D.C.], and even though they had consultants and things like that. But we knew the, we could mold and shape the data in a way that, that Lee says well, this is what I've been looking for. And so I had some sense of what public policy analysis was all about and had supported the, with analysis and its--provided analytical support to the Washington [government affairs] office on certain issues. And so it wasn't completely foreign from that--(unclear)--but, but the, the, the art of lobbying and government relations were always new stuff for me.$$So how--did you find that you were good at it? 'Cause I mean that, I mean--$$Well, I, I, my strengths was understanding, were understanding what was important to Detroit [Michigan], understanding what was important back here, and my knowledge of back here versus my colleagues in the Washington office at the time. And so--and my ability to organize, and analyze, and package, and present and all of those things. So, using all of that helped me add value from day one, to some extent, even though I didn't--I, I knew where the White House [Washington, D.C.] was and had some idea where the [Capitol] Hill [Washington, D.C.] was, but I didn't know how to get inside. But that was only part of the job [executive director of government affairs], and we had people who understood the lobbying beat and could do that. I didn't necessarily have to do that at my level.$But I was operating in a different culture. This is my first job out, after college [Hampton Institute; Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia], and I was trying to get things done, whether it was negotiating with the Indian government for fertilizer or dealing with the bureaucratic maze. I was a young black kid who was, or strange-looking kid that, that was trying to tell the elders what to do with their livelihood. And so I, as a volunteer following the program, I probably was the most successful volunteer of the sixty-six [Peace Corps volunteers]. There was one other volunteer who succeeded in convincing farmers to grow rice according to the plan, but none, no one came near the yields that I got. I got the yields that we were supposed to get. And I did that I guess by establishing the relationship with the farmers in a way that, for whatever reason, they listened to me and, and, and agreed to risk growing this crop. They didn't really like the, the, the crop because it, they used thatch. The taller the thatch, the stem, they used that for thatching roofs. So the short stuff was not (laughter) saying much there. And the culture said that they like fine rice; you know, that's the, that's what they serve at weddings. Me, I, I convinced them that they should sell the rice to the government because they had to sell a certain percentage of their per, per, produced to the government. They couldn't sell it all on the black market, which is, which is outside of government-controlled pricing. The gov- government theoretically controlled the pricing of all of the rice and food stuff. But I said sell them that. It's heavy. You get the same price for heavy, thick rice as you get for fine rice. Or, it turned out that the, the tribal people, who worked the fields liked it because they thought it stayed with them longer, so you use it to feed them, but grow some of my rice (laughter). And so they did, and they were quite proud of the yield that they'd got. 'Cause I actually got out in the, in the field, and, and I could plow a bullock just as well as I could plow a, a horse, once you get the, the sounds, once you get the--you can tell 'em to go right, and left, and slow, and start, and all that stuff, and the turn, but there weren't many volunteers who could do that or would do that. So, I, as a result of that, was one of two volunteers selected to stay behind after the group headed off on the train to New Delhi [Delhi, India] and then back to the U.S. at the end of the two years to select sites for the volunteers coming in, the, the succeeding group. And my friend and I, we put together a plan that said that we claimed we could produ- reduce the attrition by half. This government spent ten thousand dollars training volunteers. So we thought, you know, what a waste if the volunteers don't serve the full term. So we could cut that in half if you sent us to train volunteers in the training program, and come back to India with them for three months, and we could--and the Peace Corps bought it, at least they bought for a time. And I did the training in California. And while we were in training, they first said well, we'll only let one of you guys go back. So we went to a bar and flipped a coin, and I lost. And then a week or so later, they came back and says "Well, we're gonna cut the whole thing out."