George W. Romney
Last updated on October 10th, 2018 at 02:18 pm
George Wilcken Romney (July 8, 1907 – July 26, 1995) was an American businessman and Republican Party politician. He was chairman and president of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973. He was the father of 2003–07 Governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, husband of 1970 U.S. Senate candidate Lenore Romney, and grandfather of 2017–present Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel.
Romney was born to American parents living in the Mormon colonies in Mexico; events during the Mexican Revolution forced his family to flee back to the United States when he was a child. The family lived in several states and ended up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they struggled during the Great Depression. Romney worked in a number of jobs, served as a Mormon missionary in the United Kingdom, and attended several colleges in the U.S. but did not graduate from any of them. In 1939 he moved to Detroit and joined the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, where he served as the chief spokesman for the automobile industry during World War II and headed a cooperative arrangement in which companies could share production improvements. He joined Nash-Kelvinator in 1948, and became the chief executive of its successor, American Motors Corporation, in 1954. There he turned around the struggling firm by focusing all efforts on the compact Rambler car. Romney mocked the products of the “Big Three” automakers as “gas-guzzling dinosaurs” and became one of the first high-profile, media-savvy business executives. Devoutly religious, he presided over the Detroit Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Having entered politics by participating in a state constitutional convention to rewrite the Michigan Constitution during 1961–1962, Romney was elected Governor of Michigan in 1962. Re-elected by increasingly large margins in 1964 and 1966, he worked to overhaul the state’s financial and revenue structure, greatly expanding the size of state government and introducing Michigan’s first state income tax. Romney was a strong supporter of the American Civil Rights Movement. He briefly represented moderate Republicans against conservative Republican Barry Goldwater during the 1964 U.S. presidential election. He requested the intervention of federal troops during the 1967 Detroit riot.
Initially a front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 1968 election, he proved an ineffective campaigner and fell behind Richard Nixon in polls. After a mid-1967 remark that his earlier support for the Vietnam War had been due to a “brainwashing” by U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Vietnam, his campaign faltered even more and he withdrew from the contest in early 1968. After Nixon’s election as president, he appointed Romney as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Romney’s ambitious plans for housing production increases for the poor, and for open housing to desegregate suburbs, were modestly successful but often thwarted by Nixon. Romney left the administration at the start of Nixon’s second term in 1973. Returning to private life, he advocated volunteerism and public service, and headed the National Center for Voluntary Action and its successor organizations from 1973 through 1991. He also served as a regional representative of the Twelve within his church.