Retired Motorola CEO Galvin dies at 89

Posted Oct. 16, 2011, at 10:52 p.m.

Robert W. Galvin, the retired chairman and chief executive of Motorola who guided his family’s business into a new technological frontier and put palm-sized telephones into pockets and purses everywhere, died Oct. 11 in Chicago. He was 89.

No cause of death was reported. The death was confirmed by a family spokesman, James David.

Before Galvin took over in 1959, Motorola was already known as a pioneer in the communications field. But it was under his 30-year stewardship that the company would make history.

Founded by his father, Paul Galvin, and uncle, Joseph Galvin, the company introduced in 1930 the first commercial car radio, which they called the Motorola.

During World War II, the Galvins’ Chicago-based company supplied the U.S. military with the hand-held two-way radio known to hundreds of thousands of troops as the walkie-talkie.

Galvin became chief executive in 1959, when his father died. Determined to expand Motorola’s interests, Galvin tapped new markets in Japan and China. He invested deeply in new technology, including semiconductors and transistors.

Under Galvin’s leadership, Motorola became a leading manufacturer of chips and circuits that powered car ignitions, tape recorders, variable speed drills and kitchen stove controls.

Galvin also ensured Motorola’s dominance in the communications field by providing NASA with radio equipment. On July 20, 1969, the grainy images and muffled sounds of Neil Armstrong planting the first step on the moon were beamed back to earth using Motorola technology.

NASA has since flown Motorola equipment to Mars, and the majority of all police cruisers, fire trucks and taxi cabs in the United States use Motorola two-way radios.

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