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Robert E. Wood
Robert Elkington Wood (June 13, 1879 – November 6, 1969) was an American soldier and businessman best known for his leadership of Sears, Roebuck and Company and the founding of the isolationist American First Committee. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1900. As an officer in the United States Army, he was stationed in the Philippines and then, for ten years, in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired to civilian life in 1915, but returned to the army, serving as a colonel in the 42nd (Rainbow) Division when the United States entered the First World War in 1917. Toward the end of the war, he was promoted to brigadier general and made acting quartermaster general of the army.
After the leaving the army again in 1919, Wood became an executive at Montgomery Ward, eventually becoming a vice-president of the company. In 1924, he left Montgomery Ward to take a position of vice-president of Sears, Roebuck. He became one of the most important leaders in that company's history, serving as vice-president from 1928 until 1939 and as chairman from 1939 until 1954. Under his leadership, Sears shifted the focus of its operations from mail-order sales to retail sales at large urban department stores. Wood also created All State Insurance as a subsidiary of Sears.
Wood was also politically active and was noted as a conservative Republican. In 1940, he helped found the America First Committee to oppose U.S. involvement in the Second World War; he served as the committee's first president on an interim basis. In 1954, Wood funded the creation of the Manion Forum, a conservative radio program hosted by Clarence Manion.
Wood, once again, served as an honorary chairman for Sears from 1968 until shortly before his death in 1969, leaving a good portion of his stocks to family members.
Bronze busts honoring Wood and seven other industry magnates stand between the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Illinois. General Wood also has a Boys and Girls Club in Chicago named in his honor.
Gen. Wood was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1979.