Owen D. Young

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Young, Owen D.

(1874–1962) lawyer, businessman, public official; born in Van Hornesville, N.Y. He worked in a Boston law firm after college and became a partner in 1907. In 1913 he joined General Electric (GE) as general counsel and vice-president to settle patent and labor disputes. Sensitive to corporate social responsibilities, he served on President Woodrow Wilson's National Industrial Conferences (1919, 1920) and President Warren Harding's Unemployment Conference (1921). In 1919 he organized and chaired the board of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and helped establish America's commercial lead in the burgeoning radio technology. He became board chairman of GE in 1922 and helped found the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in the mid 1920s. Forced by the federal courts to choose between GE or RCA, he chose GE (1933). Teamed with Gerald Swope as president, he directed GE in making progress in public and labor relations while focusing on manufacturing electrical equipment, particularly consumer goods. An international diplomat, Young helped devise the Dawes Plan (1923–24) to ease the World War I debt payments crippling Germany. He chaired the 1929 Reparations Conference, which established, among other things, the Bank for International Settlements. He was also instrumental in plans for a state university system in New York.