1966 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Being able to help other people-that's success."
One of eight children born to a railroad chief dispatcher, Bill Grace worked at an early age. He cut grass, delivered papers, and at one time worked for the railroad from midnight to eight in the morning, when he trudged off to school.
When he was 12, Grace's father gave him six lambs, explaining that if he kept them until they were old enough and then sold them he could probably double what they cost-an early lesson in free enterprise. One of the lambs fell in his mother's washtub of bluing in the front yard. While he was drying it, a man stopped by and said, "You know, son, I've never seen a blue lamb. Tomorrow is my little girl's birthday. How about selling the lamb?" Grace sold it for $100. That was his first business decision. At 15, he set up the W. E. Grace Finance Company with $375. It became an ongoing operation. Upon high school graduation, he took a clerical course and became a secretary, but he kept his finance company on the side to occupy his free time.
In 1930, Grace joined the Hobbs Manufacturing Company in Fort Worth, which built pole trailers for the oil fields. When the business suffered financially during the Depression, Grace took it over and completely turned it around. By the time Hobbs was sold to Fruehauf in 1955, Grace and the two other owners were millionaires. Soon after the buyout, Fruehauf began to have trouble. Grace took over, and it didn't take him long to straighten things out. From a 1958 net loss of $11 million, the company posted pretax earnings of more than $30 million the next year, and all debts were paid. In 1962, Grace was made chief executive officer; he was named chairman in 1972. When he retired from Fruehauf, sales were more than $13 billion.
Grace once said, "I think being able to accumulate enough so you can help other people-that's what I call success. That's what I always wanted to do. Helping young people when they need it the most is what the Horatio Alger Association is about. I've always been honored to be associated with it."* Deceased