1962 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Everyone has special gifts from God. The challenge is to use those gifts well, on the field and when the game is over."
The son of a railroad worker, James Ling was born in Oklahoma. His mother died when he was 14, and he went to live with his aunt. He began working at the age of 15 so he would not be a financial burden, and also to save for higher education. He took a job with an electrical contractor in Dallas before enlisting in the Navy in 1944. While in the Navy, he served in the South Pacific and the Philippines, and pursued an electronics program. He finished second in the competitive Naval electrical engineering course, which was prepared by Cornell University.
Ling became the youngest individual to pass the Master Electrical Contractor Examination in Dallas, Texas. In 1947, he put up $3,000 to start Ling Electric. By 1970, the company had become Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV), the nation's 14th largest industrial company. LTV had become a conglomerate of aerospace, meatpacking, sports equipment, and electronics. Ling, who had been dubbed the "merger king," felt that what he had accomplished would make business history. Companies under LTV included Braniff Airlines, Wilson & Co., Chance-Vought, National Car Rental, and Jones & Laughlin Steel Co.
Ling went on to serve as chairman of Avacelle, which worked on noise abatement technology for Boeing 707s. He also served as chairman and CEO of Empiric Energy, Inc., an independent oil and gas exploration and production company.
Ling believed that his early success was a result of finding something he was interested in and pursuing it with diligence. That was his advice to youth. "It doesn't matter what you do-lawyer, engineer, accountant- find the situation where you can excel. Once you become a specialist, then you can generalize," he said.* Deceased