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Biography

Businessman



When I was 13, my father decided I needed work experience, so I was sent to work on a large farm owned by distant relatives near Orange, Virginia. I was paid $15 a month, plus room and board.

Early Work Experience

Each day began around 5:30 a.m. For chores before breakfast, I slopped the hogs, chopped wood for the kitchen stove, ate a field hand's breakfast, and went to work with the field hands, some of whom were white and some were black.  We worked in the blazing summer heat shucking corn, picking wheat, oats and barley. We also pitched hay on to mule-drawn wagons and dug, graded, cleaned and sacked potatoes. My clothes were drenched with sweat all day long.

There was one spring we could get to in the fields, and one rusty can for drinking. We gratefully passed the can around for all to drink -- black or white. This was 1943 in a Southern state. We all worked together, we sweated together, we ate together, and we drank water from the same miserable tin can.

Our crew reached the fields shortly after sun up. We went home at dusk. I remember looking from the fields over at the convict road crew who arrived an hour after we did, and called it a day before five in the afternoon. As a 13-year-old, I thought that being on a convict road crew was a really soft touch.

I held summer jobs with a Forest Service timber crew in Montana, as a ranch hand in Wyoming and as a filling station attendant in Yellowstone Park. In retrospect, some of my most valuable lifetime experiences came when I was 13 and 14 doing exhausting work for $15 a month on the farm in Virginia.

Later in law school, I worked one summer on the investigative staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee and for one summer as the assistant to the tax counsel of W. R. Grace & Co., the shipping, banking, and chemical conglomerate.

Business World Beckons

After graduation in 1955 with what later became a Juris Doctor degree, I decided against the practice of law and began a business career in the South American manufacturing operation of W. R. Grace & Co. Peter Grace, the legendary head of the company, was obsessive about detail, budgets, and financial projections. Despite the fact that W. R. Grace was too diverse a grab bag of unrelated entities ever to appeal to Wall Street, there could not possibly have been a better pressure environment for a young executive to hone his business skills and learn financial analysis than W. R. Grace.

I am an entrepreneur at heart, not a corporate executive, so when a chance opened to start a business with two law school friends, I took it. My first corporation of which I was a co-founder, co-owner, and executive was called the Curry Sound Corporation, set up to exploit an electrostatic loud speaker invented by an overweight, eccentric, genius named Curry.

The Curry flexible electrostatic speaker was a marvel of high-end sound reproduction -- linear from 20 to 20,000 cycles. There was only one problem. It required 2,000 volts of electricity to make it perform. Anyone touching the elements without the protective cover would receive such a jolt that a spontaneous dance would come about with or without music.

Another valuable lesson in business. The greatest concepts can fail because of failure to recognize significant impediments to success.

But while I was seeking success in business, I began to realize that Someone was seeking me. For the full story, click on spiritual journey.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
—Philippians 4:13
 

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