Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Longtime Head of Ibm Dies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Longtime Head of Ibm Dies

Article excerpt

Thomas J. Watson Jr., the founder's son who steered International Business Machines Corp. into the computer age and shaped an enduring model of corporate America, died Friday. He was 79.

Watson was chief executive of IBM from 1956 to 1971, when the maker of typewriters and adding machines blazed a trail into the unknown world of corporate computing.

He died at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn., of complications following a stroke, said Roger Bolton, a spokesman for the company.

"Perhaps the most important legacy of his leadership can be summarized in just three words: `IBM means service,' " IBM Chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr. said at IBM's annual meeting last April.

Watson led IBM through the longest and most spectacular growth in modern business history. The company grew more than tenfold in revenue to about $8 billion and went to 270,000 employees from 72,500 during his tenure as chief executive.

Watson expanded IBM's paternalistic culture, which engendered unstinting hard work and loyalty in return for lifelong employment.

"He was a very tough guy to work for but he would bend over backwards for employees," said William Rave, an IBM retiree who was a manager of the laboratory in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where the company's landmark 360 mainframe computer was developed in the 1960s.

Watson became CEO several months before the death of his father, Thomas J. Watson Sr., who started IBM in 1914. That was the same year the younger Watson was born in Dayton, Ohio, on Jan. 8.

Raised in Short Hills, N.J., and educated at private schools, Watson called himself a privileged and unimpressive youth. He admitted in his memoirs that he spent so much time at Brown University flying airplanes that he barely graduated.

After finishing Brown in 1937, Watson briefly took a job at IBM before joining the Air Force. During World War II, he logged more than 2,000 hours of air time in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. After the war he rejoined IBM. Watson was involved in moving into production a prototype electronic calculator built by IBM during the war. Thousands of the machines - the model 603 and 604 - were sold to companies in the late 1940s and 1950s. …

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