Nash, Charles W.

Nash, Charles W. (Williams)

(1864–1948) automobile manufacturer; born in De Kalb County, Ill. When his parents separated in 1870 he was bound out to a farmer in Michigan. He ran away at age 12 and worked various jobs. Married in 1884, he moved to Flint, Mich., in 1891 for his wife's medical needs and ended up at the Durant-Dort Carriage Company trimming upholstery. Promoted rapidly, he became plant supervisor and then general manager (1904), replacing William C. Durant who went on to Buick and General Motors (GM). Under Durant the companies almost went bankrupt, and Nash, who had been making Buick auto bodies, was asked to take over (1912). By 1915 he had restored financial order to GM, although partially by foregoing the stockholder's dividends. Durant regained control of GM (1916), and Nash left for Wisconsin where he bought the company that made the Rambler, renaming it the Nash Motor Company. This he merged with the Kelvinator Company (1937), manufacturer of household appliances like refrigerators, to diversify and stay competitive. He was active in civic affairs in Kenosha, Wis., but retired to Beverly Hills after World War II.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.