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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
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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."