Wilson, Charles E.

Wilson, Charles E. (Erwin) (“Engine Charlie”)

(1890–1961) automobile executive, cabinet member; born in Minerva, Ohio. An electrical engineer, he designed automobile products for Westinghouse (1912–21), then became president of Delco Remy (1926–28). As vice-president of General Motors (1928–41), then president (1941–52), he recognized the United Auto Workers union, championed cost-of-living wage increases, and led his company through World War II as a major producer of military vehicles. President Eisenhower's outspoken secretary of defense (1953–57), he began by angering liberals with his claim that "what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice-versa," and ended by angering the military with severe cuts in the defense budget.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.