Paul G. Hoffman was an early automotive pioneer and businessman who was CEO and Chairman of The Studebaker Corporation in the 1940s. He was appointed by President Harry S. Truman in 1948 to direct the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of western Europe after World War II. He also served President Dwight D. Eisenhower as U.S. Delegate to the United Nations in 1956. The illustration at right is from a cover of Time Magazine in 1948 just after his appointment to head the Marshall Plan.
Paul was born on April 26, 1891 in Western Springs, Illinois, 15 miles west of Chicago on the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad. His father was an inventor. Paul attended grammar school at The Grand Avenue School in Western Springs. He graduated from Lyons Township High School in La Grange with the class of 1909. While he was in high school, Paul was a dare devil race car driver who competed in many early auto races in Illinois. When he was only 16 years old in 1907, Paul drove a Pierce Arrow car as one of 36 entries in the three-day Chicago Motor Club endurance and reliability test. One of his competitors was the legendary Barney Olfield who drove an Autocar. Paul attended the University of Chicago. At age 20 in 1911, he moved to Los Angeles to work for Studebaker. He worked his way up from the bottom starting out as an auto mechanic, then a salesman, a sales supervisor, and company executive.
Paul Hoffman served in many different government and private sector positions including a stint as Director of the War Production Board in 1942. After his service as head of the Marshall Plan, he was president of the Ford Foundation from 1951 to 1953. In 1953, he became Chairman of the Board of Studebaker-Packard Corporation. At age 75, he became head of the UN Development Program. He divided his time between Chicago and the west coast in the 1950s. He was a trustee of the University of Chicago and Kenyon College, Director of the Chicago Corporation, Director of United Airlines, Inc., a director of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Paul Hoffman authored three books, received honorary degrees from nine colleges and universities, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In The Chicago Daily News photo at right, taken in 1907, Paul is only 16 as he is shown driving a car in uphill competition at Algonquin, Illinois.
Paul died on Oct. 8, 1974 in New York at the age of 83. Paul Hoffman's greatest contribution in public service was not as an automobile executive but as a businessman for peace. The Marshall Plan, named for former General and Secretary of State George Catlett Marshall who thought up the idea, was an investment of billions of dollars on the part of America in the economic rebuilding of western Europe. Hoffman's careful stewardship of that important act of American common sense and generosity was one of the greatest examples of peace time cooperation among nations in the 20th Century.