Charles E. Wilson

Inducted 1969

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1950

Designed the first automobile starter motors while at Westinghouse Named President of General Motors in 1941 and led GM to a history-making agreement with the UAW to link wage increases with the cost of living Served as Secretary of Defense in President Dwight Eisenhower’s cabinet Plain-speaking, and sometimes outspoken, Charles Wilson said what he believed…and vice versa. A dynamic engineer and manager, Wilson rose rapidly through the ranks at General Motors, becoming Vice President in 1928, Executive Vice President in 1939 and President in 1941. Wilson was at the top of one of the world’s major corporations when then President Dwight Eisenhower asked him to join his cabinet as Secretary of Defense. In accepting the post, Wilson divested himself of all his GM share holdings to avoid any conflict of interest, a move that cost him more than $1 million. Despite his tremendous personal accomplishments, Wilson is perhaps best remembered for a statement he didn’t make during his political career as Secretary of Defense. It was reported that Wilson said, “What was good for General Motors was good for our country.” But what Wilson actually said was, “For years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.” Wilson served his country well during the re-building of war-torn Europe and Asia, then returned to General Motors as a member of the Board of Directors in 1957.

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