Edward Carlson

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Edward Elmer Carlson
Born Edward Elmer Carlson
(1911-06-04)June 4, 1911
Tacoma, Washington
Died April 3, 1990(1990-04-03) (aged 78)
Seattle, Washington, United States
Residence Chicago
Education Lincoln High School (Seattle, Washington)
student, U. Wash., 1928-32
Board member of president, Western International 1961–
president, UAL 1971–
Chm. of board, United Airlines 1979-90
president, Pacific Science Center Foundation
president, American Hotel and Motel Association
director, Seattle-First National Bank
trustee, Virginia Mason Hospital
trustee, Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Seattle First National Bank
General American Insurance Corporation
Virginia Mason Association
Seattle Central Association
Trust Houses Group in London
University of Washington Board of Regents
many others
Spouse(s) Nell Hinckley Cox (June 26, 1936)
Children Edward Eugene Carlson (b. 1940)
Jane Leslie Wiliams (b. 1942)
Parent(s) Elmer E. and Lula (Powers) Carlson
Relatives Margaret Carlson, ex daughter-in-law
Awards Horatio Alger Award, 1975
U. Washington's Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus, 1970
Seattle-King County Municipal League Outstanding Citizen, 1970
Seattle-King County Association of Realtors First Citizen of 1965

Edward "Eddie" Carlson (June 4, 1911 – April 3, 1990), was an American businessman and Seattle, Washington civic leader.[3]

Carlson was born in Tacoma, Washington and, as a youth, helped his single mother make ends meet by working as an attendant at a gas station, as well as other odd jobs. Carlson entered the University of Washington in 1928 and, while a student, began his hotel career as a pageboy, then elevator operator, then bellhop.He dropped out of college in 1930 for financial reasons. He worked half a year as a seaman, then worked a summer job at Mount Baker Lodge, and beginning in autumn 1931 traveled the country in an unsuccessful stint as a salesman trying to sell a machine that mechanically blocked (shaped) felt hats. Returning to Seattle, he returned to hotel work, first as a room clerk and then as assistant manager of Seattle's Roosevelt Hotel, next as manager of the President Hotel in Mount Vernon, Washington. On June 26, 1936, he married Nell H. Cox.[3]

In April 1937, Carlson returned to Seattle to manage the Rainier Club,[3] Seattle's preeminent private club."[4] He retained that position until he left to join the Navy in 1942; at that time, the club awarded him a military membership, which became a regular membership upon his return from World War II.[3]

He finished World War II as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Supply Corps, having served in Seattle and then in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Returning from the war, he took a position as assistant to S. W. Thurston, president of Western Hotels, Inc. (later Western International Hotels, then Westin Hotels). Within a year he had been named vice president, then became successively executive vice president (1953), president (1960), and finally chairman and CEO (1969). Westin merged with United Airlines in 1970, and Carlson became CEO of the newly formed company, U.A.L., a position he held from 1971–1979. In his first two years, he turned the almost bankrupt airliner into a profitable one.[3]

Carlson is credited in bringing the 1962 World's Fair—the Century 21 Exposition—to Seattle. His napkin sketch of tower with a revolving restaurant on top, inspired by the Stuttgart Tower, was the origin of the Space Needle.[3] Harvard Business School named Carlson one of the great business leaders of the twentieth century.[3]

Carlson was also (along with Henry Broderick) one of the two leaders of the successful 1948 initiative that re-legalized the sale of liquor by the drink in Washington State.[5]

Edward E. Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center[edit]

In 1992, a gift from the Carlson family founded the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center at the University of Washington (U.W.). "Since its inception, the Center has worked with faculty to extend classroom learning, help students make meaningful contributions to the community and promote the development of effective citizens and leaders. Through the Carlson Center each year, hundreds of U.W. students engage in public service."[6]


The Carlsons had two children, Gene and Janie. Carlson remained close to his former daughter-in-law Margaret Carlson even after the divorce.[7]


  1. ^ "Edward Elmer Carlson" (fee (via Fairfax County Public Library)). The Complete Marquis Who's Who. Marquis Who's Who. 2009. Gale Document Number: GALE|K2013693499. Retrieved 2011-10-01.  Gale Biography In Context.
  2. ^ Narvaez, Alfonso A. (April 6, 1990). "Edward E. Carlson Is Dead at 78; Former Leader of United Airlines". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  3. ^ Priscilla Long, Gentlemen organize Seattle's Rainier Club on February 23, 1888, HistoryLink.org, January 27, 2001. Accessed online 2009-06-24.
  4. ^ Bill Speidel, Through the Eye of the Needle, Seattle: Nettle Creek, ISBN 0-914890-04-2. p. 114.
  5. ^ "About Eddie Carlson". Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center, University of Washington. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  6. ^ Carlson, Margaret (2003). Anyone can grow up: how George Bush and I made it to the White House. pp. 14–16. ISBN 9780684808901. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Carlson, Edward. Recollections of a Lucky Fellow.