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Steel company executive put business before self

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By Jerry Vondas
Friday, May 2, 2003
 

Raised in a Christian home by a strict Methodist mother, Bill Jackson at an early age was taught the basic tenets of service and stewardship.

These tenets enabled William Richard Jackson as an adult to assume the responsibilities of managing Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel, a major steel-fabricating company founded by his father.

William Richard Jackson, of Sewickley Heights, president and chairman of the board of the former Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. on Neville Island, died from prostate cancer on Tuesday, April 29, 2003, at his home. He was 94.

"The businessmen and entrepreneurs of my father's and my grandfather's generations understood the meaning of stewardship and lived up to a saying of that time: 'You put your business before yourself,' " said Bill Jackson's son, W. Richard Jackson, who operated the company until it was sold in 2002.

"My father truly believed that being the owner of a company also entailed being a steward who was concerned with the well-being of the men and women who worked for you and depended on you for their livelihood," said Jackson, who also commented on how the management of Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel for years overfunded the company pension plan in order to provide its employees with a comfortable retirement.

Besides his commitment to managing Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel, William Jackson also became involved with the Boy Scouts. In 1973, he served as chairman of the National Boy Scouts of America Jamboree in Moraine State Park, Butler County, where more than 43,000 Boy Scouts attended.

"My father believed in the value of the Boy Scouts and their oath of honor, duty to God and country, helping others and staying morally strong," his son said.

"Dad served the Boy Scouts, both locally and nationally, and had received the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope and Silver Buffalo awards."

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, and raised in Crafton, William Jackson was one of three children in the family of John T. Jackson, who founded the steel company in Des Moines in 1892, and moved it to Neville Island in 1903.

"At that time, Pittsburgh was the leading steelmaker in the country, and if your company was located within 50 miles of the steel mills of Pittsburgh, you didn't have to pay freight charges," said Jackson. "That's when my grandfather decided that moving to Pittsburgh was good business."

William Richard Jackson attended Ohio Wesleyan University for two years, and in 1930 graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an undergraduate degree in business administration and civil engineering.

In 1936, he joined his father's firm after being employed as an industrial engineer with the American Bridge Co.

In the ensuing years, Mr. Jackson served the company, which was a prime builder of wind tunnels used for testing aircraft, as a director, secretary-treasurer, president and chairman of the board. In 1989, he was elected chairman emeritus, a position he held until the company was sold in March 2002.

In June 1932, he married Lucilla Scribner, a childhood friend from Squirrel Hill, whose father was a professor of Greek at the University of Pittsburgh. Scribner received her degree from Pennsylvania College for Women, now Chatham College.

"My father was a man on the go with many commitments," said Jackson. "Mom was content with staying home and raising my sisters and myself."

In the years after their move to Sewickley and Sewickley Heights, Mr. Jackson served as a trustee of Sewickley Presbyterian Church, board member of Sewickley Valley Hospital and treasurer of Sewickley Heights Borough Council. He was also a life member of the board of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

He was a member of the conservative Heritage Foundation, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

After Lucilla Jackson's death in 1989, he married another childhood friend, Margaret F. Rundette, who died in January.

Mr. Jackson is survived by his son, William R. Jackson Jr., of Yarmouth, Maine; daughters, Polly J. Townsend, of Manchester, Mass., and Mary M. Jackson, of Bellingham, Wash.; nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

He was predeceased by a brother, John E. Jackson, and a sister, Ruth Jackson.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. May 25 at Sewickley Presbyterian Church, 414 Grant St. Arrangements by Copeland's Sewickley-Irvine Funeral Chapel, 702 Beaver Ave.

 

 
 


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