George Wilcken Romney

(b. 1907)

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(b. Chihuahua, Mexico, 8 July 1907; d. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 26 July 1995)

US; Governor of Michigan 1963–9, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1969–72 George Romney was born in a Mormon settlement in Chihuahua, Mexico. He grew up in Idaho and Utah and himself spent two years as a Mormon missionary. Although he attended a number of different colleges, he never graduated. He started his career as speech writer for Massachusetts Senator David Walsh but became a lobbyist for Aluminium Corporation of America in the 1930s. He then moved to Detroit to work for the automobile industry, becoming in 1954 the chairman and general manager of American Motors, formed from two newly merged smaller companies—Nash Kelvinator and the Hudson Motor Car Corporation. He proved successful at rescuing the company, improving its market share and promoting its small car—the Midget. Romney also became involved in politics and headed a civic study group, Citizens for Michigan, to analyse Detroit's problems.

In 1962 Romney ran for Governor and won against an incumbent Governor, John Swainson, in part because of his appeal to organized labour. He was re-elected in 1964 and 1966 with increasingly comfortable majorities. As Governor, Romney's managerial expertise stood him in good stead. He reduced the state deficit by imposing new taxes and promoted progressive policies especially in the field of civil rights. A liberal Republican, Romney was the first candidate in the 1968 Republican nomination battle race; but he dropped out very early on in the race. Nixon appointed Romney Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1969, a post in which Romney attempted to extend the amount of federally subsidized housing. Romney was only partially successful and his effort to extend subsidized housing to the suburbs was thwarted within the administration.

Romney did not serve in Nixon's second administration and he instead devoted himself to promoting voluntary work and civic responsibility through the National Centre for Voluntary Activity which he founded.

Subjects: Politics.

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