Runyon’s first goal was to treat the United States Postal Service as a business geared toward making money and pleasing customers. With this in mind, he eliminated 23,000 management jobs, hired more letter carriers and counter employees and stressed the use of computer automation in order to speed mail delivery. Runyon also responded to past incidents of workplace violence by creating a training program to help employees deal with stress.
To get the postal service out of the red, Runyon restructured the organization’s debt and boosted sales by featuring pop culture icons like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and James Dean on stamps. He pushed for a postage price increase that raised the cost of first class stamps from $.29 to $.32. By the time he stepped down in 1998, the government agency was making $1 billion in profit.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Runyon served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He graduated from Texas A&M University and took a job as an assembly worker at the Ford Motor plant in Dallas. Working his way up the corporate ladder, Runyon eventually became the company’s vice president of assembly and operations.
After 37 years with Ford, Runyon retired in 1980 and became the chief executive of Nissan’s North American operations in Smyrna, Tenn. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan named him chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority. There Runyan earned the nickname “Carvin’ Marvin” for cutting the payroll by 30 percent.
The Justice Department briefly investigated Runyon in 1997 for conflict-of-interest allegations. He proposed a plan to install Coca-Cola vending machines in all 40,000 post offices, but failed to disclose his ownership of Coke stock. Although Runyon did not face criminal charges, he ended up paying $27,550 to settle the matter. For the past few years, he taught business classes at Middle Tennessee State University and ran the Runyon Group, a business consulting firm.
Runyon died on May 3 of lung disease. He was 79.