Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"He calls himself a social radical"

Col. Wm. Cooper Procter (Aug. 25, 1862 — May 2, 1934) by Jesse Halsey
He is a tall gentleman, this colonel, as a colonel should be. He calls himself a social radical—and is worth millions. He is a forceful executive, yet has helped numbers of his friends weather the Depression, who otherwise would have been swamped.

His business has, in spite of said Depression, had the biggest year in its history and made ten million dollars; not for him, however, but for its stockholders.

An appointment is not hard to make, if you have a real errand. His private office is substantially furnished but not elegantly. He sits behind a mahogany desk and the red wood reflects a little color into his gray angular face. When he moves back from the desk the gray suit he wears makes his face seem white and drawn. Yesterday he went to Florida, where he will turn brown, but without tan that face looks almost ashen. And no wonder. He has been a hospital patient half a dozen times these last years. His breath comes short, if he hurries; sounds like asthma.

He finds it hard to slow down; he has always been a driver—of himself, and others, too.

“I want a man to do a day’s work. There will always be some who won’t work; the unemployable. But every man who wants to work ought to have the chance.”

His own company, for some years now, has lived up to this, guaranteeing to its employees work for at least forty-eight weeks a year.

“When I left college and came home to the factory my father and his partners thought I was crazy when I suggested a half holiday on Saturday. That was my first radicalism and I have been at it ever since.” There is a twinkle in his blue eye as he says this, so that you forget the “cold” of the penetrating gaze and the angularity of the face—somehow it has lost its sharpness.

A business deal he carries through with precision tending to every detail himself. He is, one overhears, not an easy man to work with, yet he has several hundred men you have been with him a lifetime!

He loves wild flowers and the out of doors and has a large, but simple house on the high sand dunes overlooking the ocean and Gardner’s Bay on the east end of Long Island.

“When the collapse came in Germany, the only people who had anything in the end were the land owner’s,” he said to me one day and then told about his farm in central Ohio of four thousand acres.

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