Famous Marines – Frederick W. Smith

Frederick W. Smith

Famous Marines - Frederick W. Smith

You may not recognize the name Fred Smith, but you will most definitely recognize his company. Fred Smith is the President, founder, and CEO of Federal Express (FedEx).

Frederick was born on August 11, 1944, in marks Mississippi. As a small boy, he was crippled by Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (a disorder of the hip in young children) but by age 10 he had regained his health.

He attended elementary school at Presbyterian Day School in Memphis and high school at Memphis University School, and became an amateur pilot as a teen, learning the ropes while operating a crop duster at the age of 15.

He attended Yale in 1962 and wrote a paper for his economics class outlining overnight delivery service. While still at Yale, he decided to join the Marines, his father and three of his uncles had served in the military. He received his BA in economics in 1966.

Following his graduation in 1966, Smith went to Vietnam as a Marine Platoon leader with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, as a platoon leader in India Company, he was wounded twice and was promoted to company commander of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines as a first lieutenant. He then enrolled in flight school, reasoning that his second tour of duty would be in Hawaii or Japan.

He went right back to Vietnam in forward air control with Marine Observation Squadron 2 at Marble Mountain, flying more than 200 ground-support missions. By the time of his discharge, Smith had received the Bronze and Silver Stars as well as a dozen Air Medals.

In July 1969 Smith was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain. His personal awards included the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Heart medals.

“Still, much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine. The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture. We teach them daily in our own Leadership Institute, which turns out the thousands of managers needed to run our operating companies.”

In August of 1969, Smith married Linda Black Grisham, a high-school girlfriend, later divorcing her in 1977

In 1971, he started Federal Express envisioning an express-delivery service that he envisioned as an integrated system of airplanes and trucks. He wanted to make sure that he integrated air-ground operations and ensured everything was well coordinated, from the pickup and delivery folks to the pilots, something he learned while in the Marine Corps.

Two years later, he launched the service with just 14 airplanes and a handful of vans, with night flights from Memphis, (where he based the operations), to 25 U.S. cities. Federal Express initially struggled—largely due to rising fuel costs—and it lost nearly $30 million in its first 26 months. The venture ultimately turned around, recording a profit in 1976. Smith took Federal Express public two years later.

Today they have grown into a global transportation company that earns more than $38 billion a year in revenue, employs almost 300,000 people, delivers millions of shipments a day, and serves 220 countries.

I salute you my brother, Frederick, Semper Fidelis

Frederick W. Smith

Frederick W. Smith is the second from the right

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