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Henry Ford II

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Henry Ford II
Ford in 1977
Born(1917-09-04)September 4, 1917
DiedSeptember 29, 1987(1987-09-29) (aged 70)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
EducationYale University (did not graduate)
OccupationAutomobile executive
  • President of Ford Motor Company (1945–1960)
  • CEO of Ford Motor Company (1945–1979)
  • Chairman of Ford Motor Company (1960–1980)
  • Anne McDonnell
    (m. 1940; div. 1964)
  • (m. 1965; div. 1976)
  • Kathleen DuRoss
    (m. 1980⁠–⁠1987)
ParentEdsel Ford (father)

Henry Ford II (September 4, 1917 – September 29, 1987), sometimes known as "Hank the Deuce" or simply "the Deuce", was an American businessman in the automotive industry. He was the oldest son of Edsel Ford I and oldest grandson of Henry Ford. He was president of the Ford Motor Company from 1945 to 1960, Chief executive officer (CEO) from 1947 to 1979, and chairman of the board of directors from 1960 to 1980.[1] Under his leadership, Ford Motor Company became a publicly traded corporation in 1956. From 1943 to 1950, he also served as president of the Ford Foundation.

Early life and education[edit]

Henry Ford II was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Eleanor Clay Ford and Edsel Ford on September 4, 1917. He, brothers Benson and William, and sister Josephine, grew up amid affluence. He graduated from The Hotchkiss School in 1936.[2] He attended Yale University, where he served on the business staff of The Yale Record,[3] the campus humor magazine, but left in 1940 before graduation.[4] During this time, he became a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity.[5]


When his father Edsel, president of Ford, died of cancer in May 1943 (during World War II), Henry Ford II was serving in the Navy and unable to inherit the presidency of the family-owned business. The elderly and ailing Henry Ford I, company founder, re-assumed the presidency, though mentally inconsistent, suspicious, and considered no longer fit for the presidency position by most of the company's directors. For the previous 20 years, although he had long been without any official executive title, the elder Ford kept de facto control over the company; the board and the management had never seriously defied him, and this moment was not different. The directors elected him, and he served until the end of the war.[6] During this period, the company began to decline, losing over $10 million a month (equivalent to $217,000,000 in 2023[7]). The administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt considered a government acquisition of the company to ensure continued war production, but the idea never progressed to execution.

Henry Ford II left the Navy in July 1943[8] and joined the company's management a few weeks later. He assumed presidency of the business on September 21, 1945. Since it had been assumed that Edsel Ford would continue in his capacity as president of the company for much longer than turned out to be the case, Henry Ford II had received little preparation for the position, and he inherited the company during a chaotic period; its European factories had suffered a great deal of damage during the war, and domestic sales were in decline.

Henry Ford II immediately adopted an aggressive management style. One of his first acts as company president was to place John Bugas in charge of company management, dismissing much of his grandfather's inner circle, especially Harry Bennett, chief of the Ford Service Department, whom the elder Ford had hired in 1921 to oversee security at the vast Ford Rouge Plant complex, and nearly two decades later had become a lightning rod in efforts to prevent unionization of the Ford labor force, by violent means if necessary. Next, acknowledging his inexperience, Henry II hired several seasoned executives to support him. He hired former General Motors executives Ernest Breech and Lewis Crusoe away from the Bendix Corporation. Breech was to serve in the coming years as the young Ford's business mentor, and the Breech–Crusoe team would form the core of Ford's business expertise, offering much-needed experience.

Additionally, Ford hired ten young up-and-comers, known as the "Whiz Kids". These ten, gleaned from an Army Air Forces statistical team, Ford envisioned as giving the company the ability to innovate and stay current. Two of them, Arjay Miller and Robert McNamara, went on to serve as presidents of Ford themselves. A third member, J. Edward Lundy, served in key financial roles for several decades and helped to establish Ford Finance's position as a major worldwide financial operation. As a team, the "Whiz Kids" are probably best remembered as the design team for the 1949 Ford, which they took from concept to production in 19 months, and which re-established Ford as a formidable automotive company. It was reported that 100,000 orders for this car were taken the day it was introduced to the market.

Ford became president and CEO of Ford Motor Company in 1945. In 1956, the company became a publicly traded corporation and dedicated its new world headquarters building. During his term as CEO of Ford, he lived in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. On July 13, 1960, he was elected chairman before resigning as president on November 9, 1960. He would resign as CEO on October 1, 1979, and as chairman on March 13, 1980.[9] His nephew, William Clay Ford Jr. would later assume these positions after 20 years of non-Ford family management of the company. During this interim, the family's interests were represented on the board by Henry's younger brother William Clay Ford Sr., as well as Henry's son Edsel Ford II and his nephew William Clay Ford Jr.

During the early 1960s Ford engaged in lengthy negotiations with Enzo Ferrari to buy Ferrari, with a view to expanding Ford's presence in motorsport in general and at the Le Mans 24 Hours in particular. However, negotiations collapsed due to disputes over control of Ferrari's Scuderia Ferrari racing division. The collapse of the deal led him to launch the Ford GT40 project, intended to end Ferrari's dominance at Le Mans (the Italian marque won the race six consecutive times from 1960 to 1965). In 1966, after two difficult years in 1964 and 1965, the GT40 Mark IIs locked out the podium at both the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours before taking the first of four consecutive wins at Le Mans.[10]

Max Fisher (center), John Bugas (left), Henry Ford II (right) at Bugas's Wyoming ranch

In the late 1960s, Ford became personally involved in the development of the Lincoln Continental Mark III. He made design decisions that overrode focus groups and Ford engineers alike. Ford ultimately selected both the final exterior and interior designs. The result was a Ford Motor Company flagship that single-handedly made Lincoln profitable and spawned a three-decade market rivalry between the Lincoln Mark series and Cadillac's Eldorado series. The success of the Mark III has been considered to be the high point of Ford's career. [11] [12] During this time, Ford also reformed the company's European operations, merging the previously separate (and competing) British and German subsidiaries into a single Ford of Europe with a common product line and merged manufacturing operations. During the 1970s, Ford of Europe expanded substantially, with new factories in Saarlouis and Valencia, the latter becoming one of Ford's biggest plants outside the US.

In 1973–74, as it became clear that the U.S. automobile market would begin to favor smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, Ford's then-President Lee Iacocca was highly interested in buying powertrains from Honda Motor Company as a way to minimize the cost of developing a small Ford car for the North American market, such as a modified version of Ford of Europe's Ford Fiesta. The plan was rejected by Henry Ford II, who said, "No car with my name on the hood is going to have a Jap engine inside."[citation needed] Although the Ford Motor Company had been selling a Mazda compact pickup truck as the Ford Courier since late 1971, Ford did not like the idea of flagship North American passenger car models moving in that direction. Ford Motor Company did go on to adapt to the era in which Japanese, German, and American participation in a globalized automobile industry became tightly integrated. For example, Ford's relationship with Mazda was well developed even before the end of Henry Ford II's period of influence. However, in Iacocca's view, it lagged several years behind GM and Chrysler, due to Henry Ford II's unappealable influence, before others led it forward despite his resistance.[citation needed]

Henry Ford II's management style caused the company's fortunes to fluctuate in more ways than one. For example, he allowed the offering of public stock in 1956, which raised $650 million for the company (equivalent to $7,300,000,000 in 2023[7]), but the "experimental car" program instituted during his tenure, the Edsel, cost the company almost half that. Likewise, Henry Ford II hired the creative Iacocca, who was fundamental to the success of the Ford Mustang, in 1964, but fired him due to personal disputes in 1978 (about the break in their relationship, Iacocca quoted Ford as saying, "Sometimes you just don't like somebody.") Iacocca later retorted, "If a guy is over 25 percent a jerk, he's in trouble. And Henry was 95 percent."[13] Ford II formally retired from all positions at Ford Motor Company on October 1, 1982, upon reaching the company's mandatory retirement age of 65, but remained the ultimate source of authority at Ford until his death in 1987.

Awards and achievements[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Henry Ford II was married three times:

  • Anne McDonnell (1919[14]–1996), a daughter of James Francis McDonnell.[15] They married in 1940 and divorced in 1964 (she married Deane F. Johnson in 1968). The Fords had three children:
  • Maria Cristina Vettore (1929–2008), formerly wife of Robin Willoughby Merivale Austin, a Canadian in the British Royal Navy; she and Ford married in New York City in 1965 and divorced in 1980.[15][17]
  • Kathleen DuRoss (born Kathleen Roberta King, 1940 - 2020),[15][18] widow of L. David DuRoss[19] (died 1959);[20] she and Ford were married in Carson City, Nevada, 1980. By this marriage, Ford had two stepdaughters:
    • Deborah Guibord (née DuRoss)
    • Kimberly DuRoss

Ford died of pneumonia in Detroit at Henry Ford Hospital on September 29, 1987, at age 70. After a private funeral service at Christ Church Grosse Pointe, his remains were cremated and the ashes scattered.[21]



  • The Ford 50th Anniversary Show (1953) - Broadcast live on CBS and NBC and called both "a landmark in television" and "a milestone in the cultural life of the '50s".[23]
  • Thunderball (1965) – Extra at the Nassau Casino (uncredited)

In popular culture[edit]

Henry Ford II is portrayed by Tracy Letts in the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari (released under the title "Le Mans '66" in some parts of Europe).[24]

He shows up in a few scenes in the 2002 movie Monday Night Mayhem. Footage of him appears in the documentary television series The Cars that Built America.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Henry Ford". Archived from the original on February 13, 2007. Retrieved February 14, 2007. Henry Ford I resigned for the second time at the end of World War II. His oldest grandson, Henry Ford II, became president on Sept. 21, 1945. Even as Henry Ford II drove the industry's first postwar car off the assembly line, he was making plans to reorganize and decentralize the company to resume its prewar position as a major force in a fiercely competitive auto industry. Henry Ford II provided strong leadership for Ford Motor Company from the postwar era into the 1980s. He was president from 1945 until 1960 and chief executive officer from 1945 until 1979. He was chairman of the board of directors from 1960 until 1980, and remained as chairman of the finance committee from 1980 until his death in 1987.
  2. ^ "Alumni Award: PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS". The Hotchkiss School. 2004. Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  3. ^ Alexander, Cecil A. (May–June 2004) "The Pranks of Yesteryear". The Harvard Magazine. Cambridge: Harvard.
  4. ^ Thackery, Ted Jr. (September 30, 1987). "Henry Ford II Dies; Led Auto Firm 35 Years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  5. ^ "Notable Zetes". Zeta Psi Fraternity. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  6. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 325–326
  7. ^ a b 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  8. ^ "Henry Ford II | Biography & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. January 25, 2024. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  9. ^ "Henry Ford II gives up chairmanship at Ford". Democrat and Chronicle. March 14, 1980. p. 7D. Retrieved January 18, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Stuart, Greg (February 19, 2016). "Legends: Ford GT40". Red Bull. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  11. ^ "Mark of Success: The Lincoln Continental Mark Series > Ate up with Motor". September 12, 2009.
  12. ^ "1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III".
  13. ^ Barnes, Bart (July 2, 2019). "Auto industry icon Lee Iacocca dies at 94. He helped launch the Ford Mustang and saved Chrysler from bankruptcy". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  14. ^ Social Security Death Index; Ford: The Men and the Machine (Little, Brown & Co., pub.), c. 1986 by Robert Lacey, First Edition; New York State Census, 1925; Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Guide-books, by James A. Bridenstine, Genealogy, p. 101, chart)
  15. ^ a b c Lacey, Robert (1986). Ford: The Men and the Machine (First ed.). Little, Brown & Co. p. 101. ISBN 9780316511667.
  16. ^ Nemy, Enid (March 31, 1996). "Anne Ford Johnson, 76, Dies; Influenced Fashion and Arts". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Bridenstine, James A. (February 1989). Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. Wayne State University Press. p. 101.
  18. ^ Karen Bouffard (May 9, 2020), "Kathleen DuRoss Ford, widow of Henry Ford II, dies at 80", The Detroit News, archived from the original on May 11, 2020, retrieved May 11, 2020
  19. ^ 1940 U.S. Federal Census
  20. ^ Ancestry.com, Public Member Trees (Provo, Utah, U.S.A., Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006), www.ancestry.com, Database online, records for L. David DuRoss
  21. ^ "100 Close Relatives, Friends at Rites for Henry Ford II". Los Angeles Times. United Press International. October 2, 1987. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  22. ^ "Henry Ford II Honors Program". Henry Ford College. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  23. ^ "Ford's 50th anniversary show was milestone of '50s culture". Palm Beach Daily News. December 26, 1993. p. B3 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ "James Mangold to Direct Ford vs. Ferrari Film as 'Logan' Follow-Up". Variety. February 5, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  25. ^ "The Cars That Made America". IMDb.


  • Brinkley, Douglas. (2003) Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress. New York: Viking Press.
  • Lacey, Robert. (1986) Ford: The Men and the Machine. Boston: Little, Brown.
  • Nevins, Allan and Frank Ernest Hill (1962) Ford: Decline and Rebirth 1933–1962. New York: Scribners.
  • Sorensen, Charles E. (1956), My Forty Years with Ford, New York: W. W. Norton, LCCN 56010854, OCLC 912748. Various republications, including ISBN 9780814332795.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by Executive Vice-President of Ford Motor Company
April 10, 1944 – July 1, 1946[1]
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Ford Motor Company
September 21, 1945 – November 9, 1960
Succeeded by
Preceded by CEO of the Ford Motor Company
September 21, 1945 – October 1, 1979
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Ford Motor Company
July 13, 1960 – March 13, 1980
Succeeded by
  1. ^ the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide "1949 Ford" September 24, 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. https://auto.howstuffworks.com/1949-ford.htm. Retrieved July 13, 2019