Served General Motors Corporation for 42 years, advancing from a clerk in the controllers office to Chairman of the Board and CEO in 1974.
Established GM sales and production records, introducing many new models in response to public demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Thomas A. Murphy turned a temporary job into a lifetime of automotive industry service. While attending college, Murphy obtained a summer job at General Motors finance office in New York and was advised to pursue permanent employment with GM after graduation. He earned his degree from the University of Illinois in accounting in 1938, and was hired as a clerk on the controller’s staff. After advancing to Treasurer in 1968, Murphy was elected Vice President in charge of the Car and Truck Group in 1970. Two years later he was elected Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. In 1974, Murphy assumed the role of Chairman and CEO, a position he held until his retirement in 1981. Although he modestly portrayed himself as a “numbers jockey,” GM prospered under Murphy’s leadership. He also played an active role in the revitalization of Detroit, renovating GM’s historic world headquarters offices and spearheading community efforts.
When Murphy announced his retirement in 1980, changes in federal regulations and competition from foreign markets had industry observers speculating about the future of America’s automotive industry. Murphy told a reporter: “The automobile is essential to the American life-style. It’s going to be around. Don’t ever doubt it.”