On this day in auto history - November 9th

Mon 9th Nov 2020

It was on this day in 1960 that Robert McNamara - later to find worldwide fame and infamy as America’s Secretary For Defence - was officially appointed the president of the Ford Motor Company...a job he would famously hold for just one month!

A brilliant Harvard University scholar, McNamara was the most prominent of ten young intellectuals who were recruited by Henry Ford II to head up the company’s new planning department. This group were to famously become known as the “Whizz Kids” as they helped make Ford profitable again after two decades of decline.

Having advanced rapidly through a series of top-level management positions over the next 14 years, McNamara was a popular choice to become the first none Ford family member to serve as President of the company. However, no sooner had he got his feet under his new desk, he was poached by President-elect John F. Kennedy to serve as Secretary For Defence in his new administration.

According to many, Kennedy regarded McNamara as 'the star of his team’ and, amongst many other achievements, he is widely-credited as playing a key role in defusing the potentially catastrophic Cuban Missile Crisis. Less gloriously, however, he is also seen by many as the prime architect of the ill-fated Vietnam War during his tenure under Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson.

Having left the US administration under something of a cloud in 1968, McNamara served as President of the World Bank for the next 12 years and remained active in politics and writing right up until his death in 2009 at the age of 93.