Clarence W. Avery

Inducted 1990

Led development of the moving assembly line for Ford Motor Company in 1913.

Became one of the first auto executives to build an effective working relationship with the UAW.

Clarence Avery brought clockwork efficiency to the automotive industry. Avery had a talent for mechanics, but began his career as a teacher in Detroit. In 1912, an admiring student named Edsel Ford introduced Avery to his father, Henry. The elder Ford hired Avery for a summer job at 25 cents an hour. Since Henry Ford believed in “learning by doing,” he had Avery work through every plant operation, even dismantling a Model T and reassembling it. Avery left his teaching job and remained with Ford full-time, gaining a reputation as a problem-solver. Beginning in 1913, Avery focused on developing the moving assembly line, working with a stopwatch to speed up sub-assemblies. Always a teacher at heart, Avery was instrumental in establishing the Henry Ford Trade School. Ford was disappointed when Avery resigned in 1927 to join Murray Body Corporation, a near-bankrupt manufacturer of auto bodies. Avery’s organizational skills contributed to a turnaround at Murray, and he quickly advanced to President, and then Chairman. Avery also became one of the first auto executives to work with the UAW to address employee grievances. Complementing Ford’s learning-by-doing philosophy, Avery offered this lesson of life: “A well-understood failure is better than a misunderstood success”.

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Class of 1990

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