Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ford, II Henry

Henry Ford’s grandson and namesake, Henry Ford II, was born on September 4, 1917 in Detroit, Michigan. Born to Edsel Ford and Eleanor Clay Ford, he was the eldest of their four children. Henry Ford II attended the prestigious Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut where he graduated in 1936. He went on to attend Yale University.

Ford first starting working for his family’s company in 1940 as a mechanic in the dynamometer room. He also worked at the Rouge Plant and at the engineering test garage. In 1941, Ford took a leave of absence from the company to join the U.S. Navy. When his father died unexpectedly in 1943, Ford was given orders to return to the Ford Motor Company to continue learning the business.

On September 21, 1945 Henry Ford II was appointed president of Ford Motor Company when his grandfather, Henry Ford, retired. The change in leadership marked a new era in Ford company management. An atmosphere of teamwork and mutual respect among employees at all levels started with the firing of Harry Bennett, head of the elder Ford’s union busting security team. Henry II went on to establish a rapport with union leaders and to support collective bargaining. He was elected chairman of the board in 1960. During his tenure, Henry Ford II raised the company’s sales from $894.5 million to $43.5 billion by 1979. He also helped to reorganize international sales and factories and under his direction, the company went public in 1956.

Early in his tenure as Ford president, Henry II went out of his way to ameliorate the anti-Semitic stance of his grandfather, and was a staunch supporter of Israel. An active community leader and public servant, Ford spearheaded the establishment of the Detroit Renaissance group and was the driving force behind the construction of the Renaissance Center. Later in life he received an honorary law degree from Yale University and in 1982 Queen Elizabeth II appointed him "Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" for his years of service to British industry.

Ford was married three times, to Anne McDonnell, Cristina Vettore Austin, and Kathleen Du Ross. Ford and McDonnell had three children, Charlotte, Anne, and Edsel Bryant Ford II. Ford died on September, 29 1987.



Henry Ford II, 1963 - 2012.032.279

Henry Ford II with Renaissance Center diorama, 1971 - 2013.040.810

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