May 6, 2004 by

Marvin Runyon


Categories: Business, Government

mrunyon.jpgAs the U.S. postmaster general from 1992 to 1998, Marvin Runyon worked diligently to make the nation’s mail system profitable.

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.

6 Responses to Marvin Runyon

  1. Francis Yukawa

    As a former Nissan employee, I’ve had a privilege of knowing Marvin in the early 1980s when he was president of Nissan in Smyrna. He was the greatest American executive I have ever met. I still loyally follow what he taught me those days.

  2. Alan Williams

    I worked at Ford from 1967 and was honored to be present in several management review meetings attended by Mr. Runyon. He was known as the “Silver Fox” in those days, because he was so knowledgeable and of course his silver hair. He was extremely dedicated to his job and years ahead of his time in production methods and what it took to build a quality product. Had he been born ten years earlier the Japanese would have had a much more difficult time getting a foot hold in the U.S. market!

  3. Thomas J. Zouzas

    We have been trying to search out if Mr. Runyan was at Normandy in l994 when the postoffice gave out the first stamp honoring the airborne. My husband was the one that received the stamp and now he does not know who gave it to him.
    Would appreciate an answer. Christine Zouzas

  4. james t campbell

    I worked for the Goverment Accountability Office(GAO) and was charged of GAO’s postal sector’s work during PMG Runyon’s term. I wrote many reports and assisted in Congressional testimony relating to USPS and Mr. Runyon’s efforts to reform the Postal Service. The reports and testimony included issues on postal labor-management relations, the first-class letter mail monopoly, and improving customer service. I came to know and respect highly Mr. Runyon’s boldness and his perseverance in taming the mammoth US Postal Service. I also reported to Congress for GAO on some of Mr. Runyon’s initiatives at TVA. I was born and raised in TN and felt a closeness to Mr. Runyon and his illustrous federal careers at TVA & USPS. Jim Campbell

  5. Gary McKee

    I worked for Mr. Runyon when he was the Plant Manager of the Ford Motor Company’s St. Thomas Assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada in 1967.
    I was a young worker in the Plant Engineering department and had daily contact with him. Although this was a plant startup and he was under a great deal of pressure, never once did I see him get upset with anyone. He was a true Southern Gentleman. Ford lost a true asset when he went to Nissan

  6. J. P. Crowder

    Mr. Runyon was a stickler for detail–and how! Once, while working out in TVA’s fitness center, he noticed a “hole” in the wall and reported it to the department that looks after building maintenance. They sent a man to check it out. He could not find the alleged “hole” and reported accordingly to his superiors. Several days later, Mr. Runyon noticed that the “hole” was still present and called to find out why it had not been repaired. When told that the maintenance personnel could not find the “hole”, Mr. Runyon arranged to meet with maintenance staff and a supervisor at the location of the “hole” and show it to them. It turned out that the “hole” was a tiny, barely perceptible dimple in the sheet rock mastic. Having been shown the “hole”, the maintenance worker applied the minuscule amount of “sheet rock putty” needed to fill it and added a spot of paint to complete the job and relieve any offense that Mr. Runyon or others might suffer from viewing infrastructure defects during future visits to the fitness room.

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