MINNEAPOLIS — Donald Dayton, former chairman of Dayton's department stores, has died of cancer at age 74.
Dayton, the eldest of five brothers who made Dayton's into a retailing giant, underwent surgery for colon cancer last year and had been critically ill for the last six months, family members said. He died Thursday.
Dayton Corp. merged in 1969 with J. L. Hudson Co., forming the Dayton-Hudson Corp., which now has 660 stores in 38 states and is the nation's fifth-largest retailer.
The company owns the Target discount store chain, Mervyn's department stores and the Lechmere promotional discount store chain.
Dayton, a grandson of the firm's founder, began working at Dayton's in 1937 as a clerk and stock boy. He moved through the ranks as a buyer, divisional merchandising manager, general superintendent, assistant general manager and general manager.
In 1950, he became president and general manager on the death of his father, George Nelson Dayton. In 1960, he was elected chief executive officer, and he became chairman in 1965.
Dayton, along with his four brothers and a cousin, launched a major expansion program for the downtown Minneapolis department store founded in 1902 by their grandfather, George D. Dayton.
There was only one Dayton's store when Donald Dayton began working for the company, but by time he resigned in 1968, Dayton Corp., as it was then known, had grown to about 60 stores in 15 states and was the country's 14th-largest retailer.
Dayton, who suffered from polio as a child, founded the Sister Kenny Institute, which did pioneering work in the rehabilitation of polio victims and those with other disabling conditions.