In May 1956, four years after becoming IBM's president, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., succeeded his father as chief executive officer.
When the son first assumed command a half-century ago, IBM employed 72,500 people worldwide and produced $892 million in revenue. When he resigned as board chairman 15 years later, IBM had grown to more than 270,000 employees and revenue of $8.274 billion. In that same 15-year period, the company's net income after taxes had risen from $87 million to $1.079 billion.
The man who led that growth was born in 1914, the year his father became president of a small firm that would later become International Business Machines Corporation. Tom Watson, Jr., died on December 31, 1993, shortly before his 80th birthday.
During his uncommon life, Tom Watson, Jr.:
Fortune called him the "most successful capitalist who ever lived." Computerworld named him one of the 25 people "who changed the world." And France's Le Monde said that "he made the company into a formidable technological ... engine, and gave IBM its international dimension."
In the end, though, what matters most about Tom Watson, Jr., is that his character and convictions formed indelible impressions on thousands of IBM employees around the world -- from the board room to the branch office -- and even on people who had joined the company long after he had left it. His legendary reputation and achievements live on in IBM, and his legacy will continue to influence future leaders for generations.
To learn more about this extraordinary man, please visit the Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Reference Room.