J. Erik Jonsson
John Erik Jonsson (6 September 1901 – 31 August 1995) was a co-founder and former president of Texas Instruments Incorporated. A skillful businessman, he became mayor of Dallas, a major factor in the creation of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and a philanthropist in later years.
Erik Jonsson was born on September 6, 1901 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. His parents, John Peter and Ellen Charlotte (Palmquist) Jonsson, were both born in Sweden and independently migrated to the United States in the prior decade. Both were naturalized citizens. Jonsson was an only child. The family moved in 1912 to Montclair, New Jersey, where at the age of sixteen Jonsson graduated from Montclair High School. Jonsson was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), class of 1922 earning a degree in mechanical engineering. He was an Alpha Tau Omega. Jonsson married Margaret Fonde in Knoxville, Tennessee on February 8, 1923 and together they had three children.
Jonsson began his career in 1922 at Alcoa as a rolling mill apprentice, and advanced to the position of manufacturing superintendent of an Alcoa subsidiary, the Aluminum Index Company. He held the position from 1923 to 1927. In 1927 he left Alcoa and entered the auto business attempting a Pontiac dealership, returning to Alcoa in 1929 as a sales engineer.
During Jonsson's last year at Alcoa, J. Clarence Karcher the husband of Mrs. Jonsson's cousin, occasionally asked Jonsson's assistance with expediting materials orders for his start-up company, Geophysical Service Incorporated a pioneering provider of seismic exploration services to the petroleum industry. In June 1930 Karcher offered Jonsson a job managing the manufacture of seismic instruments at Karcher's company lab in Newark, New Jersey, and in July Jonsson again left Alcoa. , In 1934 Jonsson and his family moved to Dallas. Jonsson held the position of secretary of Geophysical Service, which gave him responsibility for all of the accounting, banking, international, legal, manufacturing, personnel, purchasing, and warehousing activities of the company. Jonsson held this position until 1939.
In 1939, the company reorganized as Coronado Corp., an oil company with Geophysical Service Inc (GSI), now as a subsidiary. In 1939 Jonsson became secretary-treasurer. On December 6, 1941, Jonsson along with three other GSI employees, Eugene McDermott, Cecil H. Green, and H.B. Peacock purchased GSI. In 1942 he became vice president and treasurer. He held this position until 1951. During World War II, GSI built electronics for the United States Army Signal Corps and the Navy. After the war GSI continued to produce electronics. The rugged nature of equipment for the oil industry and of military equipment were similar and thus continued expansion into military contracts was a natural progression. In 1951 the company changed its name to Texas Instruments; GSI becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the new company. Jonsson became president of Texas Instruments, a position he held until 1958. Jonsson was elected chairman of the board in 1958 and held this position until 1966. He became honorary chairman in 1966 through 1977.
Jonsson was a strong advocate for education, serving or leading on the boards of many educational institutions and created alliances to improve local educational facilities. Jonsson was a founder of the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, which became the University of Texas at Dallas in 1969.
In 1964, shortly after the assassination in Dallas of President John F. Kennedy, Jonsson became mayor of Dallas, Texas. He worked to improve morale and the image of the city. He was reelected three times. Jonsson pushed through a $175 million bond that financed a new city hall, the Dallas Convention Center and the Dallas Central Library. He was a central leader in the development of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Several facilities bear Jonsson's name in recognition of his contributions. These include the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in Dallas, and the well-known Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson. A trustee of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he helped fund major campus improvements, leading the institute to name the Jonsson Engineering Center and Jonsson-Rowland Science Center in his honor. The J. Erik Jonsson Center of the National Academy of Sciences, overlooking Quissett Harbor in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, is also named in honor of Jonsson.