1981 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"I think the greatest feeling of personal success I've had is helping other people to make the decision to change what they were doing, get out of the sweatshop, and become their own boss."
Born in 1919, Charles McKee grew up in a small town in Indiana. He went to work in the sixth grade as a "printer's devil," which was the name used for an apprentice printer. His dreams of college and law school were shattered by the Depression. He was a journeyman printer by the time he graduated from high school at 16, and went to Louisville, Kentucky, to work as a pressman in a printing shop.
Several other printed jobs later, McKee was working in Chicago when the printing business that employed him went bankrupt. He answered an ad that said successful applicants could make $100 a week. McKee accepted a sales job with a new company called Electrolux, a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners. He made $17,000 the first year, compared with $1,500 the year before as a pressman. In a short time, he became the company's number one salesman. Following three years in the Naval Air Force, McKee returned to Electrolux to hire and train thousands of prospective house-to-house salesmen all over the United States and Canada. When Electrolux merged with Consolidated Foods (now Sara Lee) in 1968, McKee became chairman and CEO of Electrolux, U. S. and Canada, and executive vice president of Consolidated.
When offering advice to young people, McKee said, "Find something you really enjoy doing and put your heart into it. You may or may not make a great deal of money, but accumulation of money is not in itself the measure of a successful life. To contribute to the lives of others, to enjoy personal fulfillment, to love and be loved by those close to you are rewards which all too few in the world enjoy. When you attain that, you have arrived and you are truly successful."* Deceased