Gordon Sherman

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Gordon B. Sherman (1927-1987), the creator of the Midas muffler shop chain who resigned from the company and failed in a proxy battle to regain control, died of cancer on May 8 at his home in Mill Valley, California. He was 59 years old.[1]

Early life

Mr. Sherman was born in Omaha in 1927. He entered his father's automobile parts business in 1950, two years after graduating from the University of Chicago. [2]

Midas Mufflers

Sherman conceived the idea of franchising retail outlets to sell gold-plated mufflers under the Midas name. Started in the 1950's the idea caught on quickly and the Midas Company grew rapidly.

In 1967 he became president of the Chicago-based company, by then the Midas International Corporation, succeeding his father, Nate Sherman, who became chairman.[3]

Conflict

In September 1970, after a series of conflicts with his father over his management of the company and his sponsorship of public-interest groups, Gordon Sherman resigned and his father once again took command.

The elder Mr. Sherman was said to have been disturbed over a drop in profits, but he also complained that his son had been alienating Midas dealers and customers through some of his pursuits.

Shortly after leaving Midas, Mr. Sherman began a proxy fight to regain control of the company but lost. In 1971, he moved from Chicago to California, where he became a music teacher and a nature photographer.[4]

Funding the left

Among other things, Gordon Sherman had been channeling money from the company foundation to Saul Alinsky, a community organizer, and Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate. He had also sponsored a group in Chicago, Businessmen for the Public Interest, whose goals included "helping the poor, ending discrimination and improving the environment through legal action".

Explaining his motives, Mr. Sherman said: It was Vietnam that turned me on. Something began to rise in me. Before this I'd been a typical hawk by default. But I became serious, I read.

Of his assistance to Mr. Nader, he explained: I told Nader it was O.K. if he put us out of the muffler and exhaust business, so long as he put all of our competitors out of business too.[5]


Meeting Alinsky

John McKnight arranged the dinner meeting when Monsignor Jack Egan met Gordon Sherman of Midas Mufflers.

Jack was “so bushed”—his phrase—he didn’t know whom he was supposed to be meeting. “I was tired. I just wanted to get out of there and get home.” Then John McKnight, beckoned him across the nearly empty dining room. “Well, what is it you want of me?” Father Egan abruptly and uncharacteristically challenged the president of Midas Muffler when he was introduced. Gordon Sherman told Jack Egan he was the fourteenth person he’d talked to about putting a quarter of a million where it would do the most good for the people of the city. "Jack’s mind immediately cleared. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars! He had an immediate graphic vision of the Lawndale community organized, his people taught to take charge of their own lives, the very vision that had taken him that day to rouse the young Jesuit seminarians". He told Sherman how much he’d like to see Lawndale organized the way Woodlawn was, the work directed by Saul Alinsky. Now Sherman came to attention. “Do you know Saul Alinsky?” Sherman asked eagerly. “He’s a dear friend of mine,” Jack said.

Jack Egan intended that Alinsky should flesh out Jack Egan’s aspirations for the people of Lawndale. He never dreamed that Alinsky would flesh out his own dreams, persuading Gordon Sherman that putting his quarter million in a training institute for community organizers was more desirable than funding a community organization in Lawndale. Egan’s sop was the promise—never fulfilled—that he would get the first four black organizers. Initially furious, Jack “felt betrayed, I felt double-crossed.” Egan soon forgave Alinsky because he loved the man. He even brought himself to suggest later that, “I knew Saul was right . . . because Alinsky had no black organizers to put in Lawndale. And that was 1969—months after King’s death.”[6]

"Who Asked You" Election Advertisement

In April 1968, Gordon Sherman signed an Advertisement in the Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices as a committee member of an as yet un-named organization led by Ruth Adams, Timuel Black, Rev. E. Spencer Parsons, Al Verri and Rabbi Jacob Weinstein asking the question, "What can you do to get a real choice for president in 1968?"[7]

Business and Professional People for the Public Interest

In 2010, Gordon Sherman was named as a past President of the Chicago based Business and Professional People for the Public Interest.[8]

References

  1. NY Times May 16, 1987
  2. NY Times May 16, 1987
  3. NY Times May 16, 1987
  4. NY Times May 16, 1987
  5. NY Times May 16, 1987
  6. http://archives.nd.edu/findaids/html/etext/alley018.htm
  7. Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices, April 1968
  8. BPI website: Board of Directors