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PASSINGS / Harry J. Gray

Former CEO of United Technologies

July 13, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Harry J. Gray, 89, the retired United Technologies Corp. chief executive who is credited with transforming the company into an industrial conglomerate, died Wednesday in Hartford, Conn., according to his family. The cause was not given.

Gray, who became president of what was then United Aircraft Corp. in 1971, was chairman and chief executive from 1972 to 1986.

The Hartford-based United Technologies, the parent of jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, Otis Elevator, Sikorsky Aircraft and other businesses, credits Gray with leading it from a $2-billion defense company to a $17-billion diversified conglomerate. It posted revenue of $58.68 billion in 2008.

Before arriving at United Technologies, Gray was chief financial officer at Litton Industries.

In retirement, Gray and his wife, Helen, contributed to organizations that included Hartford Hospital, University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, University of Illinois, Mark Twain House in Hartford and other organizations, United Technologies said.

Gray was born Harry Jack Grusin in Milledgeville Crossroads, Ga., on Nov. 18, 1919. He lived with an older sister in Chicago after his mother died of cancer when he was 6.

He received a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Illinois in 1941 and served in the Army during World War II. He returned to the University of Illinois and received a master's degree in marketing and advertising in 1947.

Gray sold trucks and school buses in Chicago. In 1950, he became executive vice president and general manager of the Greyvan Lines division of the Greyhound Corp.

In 1951, he changed his name from Grusin to Gray, after a short marriage. He later said the change was because he was broke, looking for a fresh start in business.

He became president of U.S. Engineering, a Van Nuys division of Litton Industries, and held that job until 1954, when he joined the parent corporation as a vice president.

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