Vol. III, Issue 1, February 24, 2004
Foster, L. G. (1999). Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel. State College, PA: Lillian Press. 736 p. [ISBN: 0966288203].
In this era of corporate scandals, it is refreshing to read about a business giant whose life impacted the nation for good in numerous ways. Although written by a former public relations director for Johnson & Johnson, the author's portrait of industrialist and philanthropist Robert Wood Johnson accurately reflects the complexities of his life.
Robert Wood Johnson was born into wealth and privilege, yet ultimately became a champion of the working class and ushered in numerous benefits that we now take for granted. He was the first industrialist to build factories that had the comfort of the employees as their first priority. He championed the cause of higher wages, better working conditions, and the concept of placing employees above profits. His ideas of corporate social responsibility transformed American business.
Author Lawrence Foster traces the life of this amazing individual beginning with the history of Johnson's father and the founding of Johnson & Johnson. Robert Wood Johnson worked his way up through the company to eventually lead Johnson & Johnson following the deaths of his father and uncle. He expanded the company into an international manufacturer of health products. In addition to his business leadership, Robert Wood Johnson also impacted America through government service, political activism, and authoring numerous articles and books. He was even promoted to brigadier general by President Roosevelt while serving as Vice Chairman of the War Production Board during World War II.
Two of the lasting legacies Robert Wood Johnson left include the famous credo that he authored to guide the decisions of Johnson & Johnson, and his philanthropic foundation that still sponsors numerous projects to benefit health care throughout the world. The credo that he authored has served as a model for other companies and organizations in defining their priorities. He dedicated his life to ensuring that Johnson & Johnson put the customers first, employees second, community third, and stockholder concerns final. He articulated that if the first three priorities were fulfilled, stockholder returns would automatically come. An appendix details the impact of this credo on the Tylenol tragedy of the 1980's that occurred more than ten years after his death.
Although lengthy, this biography accurately portrays a man who left his indelible mark on business, hospitals, government, and families in the world who use Johnson & Johnson products. This book is highly recommended for academic and medical libraries of all sizes, as well as large public libraries.
Reviewed by Ray Arnett, Director, Dickinson County Library, firstname.lastname@example.org.