Built his fortune with the purchase and turn-around of a bankrupt axle company.
Headed three major companies: Timken-Detroit, Standard Steel Spring, and Rockwell Manufacturing
Led Rockwell to major diversification and mergers with other companies to become Rockwell International Corporation
Willard Rockwell knew that a big wheel is nothing without an axle. Born in Massachusetts and educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rockwell combined a natural talent for mechanics with a head for business. After a series of unrewarding jobs, he gained the attention of one of the owners of the Torbensen Axle Company and was hired in 1915 to manage its Cleveland factory. He was later promoted to Vice President and served in that capacity while also serving in the Army during World War I. In 1919 he reorganized a small axle company which he renamed Wisconsin Parts Company. There he invented and patented a double reduction axle that formed the basis for Rockwell’s eventual success in the automotive parts industry. Always a champion of American business and a defender of the American way of life, Rockwell offered his own life and success as an example of what America — and the automobile industry — had to offer. In a 1955 address to the Society of Automotive Engineers, Rockwell noted that the automotive industry provided vivid examples of how quickly the poor could get rich, and how rapidly the very rich could lose their fortunes.