1874-1899 Charles Jeremiah Smith
Born in England, Charles Jeremiah (C. J.) Smith showed mechanical aptitude at an early age and was apprenticed to Maudsley, Sons, and Field, one of Great Britain's leading manufacturers of marine engines. There, C. J. absorbed the latest mechanical thinking of the era and brought that knowledge with him when he immigrated to America in 1843. After a number of years with the railroad, C. J. started a machinist's business in Milwaukee in 1874. He made a wide variety of metal products, including parts for baby carriages and shoemaker's lasts. In the early 1890s, C. J. and his sons began making components for bicycles, and by 1895, C. J. Smith & Sons was the nation's largest manufacturer of bicycle parts. The company eventually sold that portion of the business to the Federal Bicycle Corporation of America and C. J. retired from the day-to-day affairs of the company in 1899.
1899-1913 Arthur Oliver (A. O.) Smith
One of C. J. Smith's four sons, Arthur Oliver Smith trained as an architect and joined a firm in Chicago. In 1895, he was called on to design a new five-story factory for the fast-growing C. J. Smith & Sons bicycle business. Two years later, he joined the family business as Treasurer. When the company sold the bicycle business in 1899, A. O. Smith stayed on as general manager of the Milwaukee works. It was at that time that he became intrigued with the new automobile and began to experiment with a lighter, less costly steel car frame. In 1902, he sold his first frames to the Peerless Motor Car Company, and one year later, began supplying frames to Cadillac. The next year, he and several other stockholders formed A. O. Smith Company in Milwaukee. In 1906, Henry Ford came to Milwaukee, wanting 10,000 frames for his Model K touring car. A. O. and his team were able to adapt their manufacturing methods, creating the world's first car frame assembly line, and by 1910, A. O. Smith was the largest frame manufacturer in the U. S.
1913-1944 Lloyd Raymond (L. R.) Smith
From 1913 until 1944, one man personified A. O. Smith Corporation, Lloyd Raymond (L. R.) Smith. He was introduced to the business early, carrying water to the laborers building C. J. Smith & Son's new bicycle parts plant. He joined the company in 1905 and became president when his father died in 1913. L. R. Smith believed deeply in the power of engineering and technology, and the achievements that took place during his tenure were historic. In 1921, he unveiled "the Mechanical Marvel," the world's first automated automobile frame production line, capable of producing 10,000 frames a day with just 181 employees. He used the company's proprietary knowledge of welding to introduce welded steel pressure vessels for the oil refining and chemical industries and welded large-diameter line pipe for the oil and natural gas industries. In 1933, the company began using a process to fuse glass to steel to manufacture large glass-lined brewery tanks, and three years later patented the process to manufacture glass-lined residential water heater tanks. He continued to guide the business through the Great Depression and into World War II, a time in which the company demonstrated its manufacturing prowess with a wide range of products for the Allied war effort.
1944-1955 Rae F. Bell
Rae Bell was the first non-family member to head A. O. Smith, becoming chairman immediately following the death of L. R. Smith. He joined the company in 1921 in purchasing. As a Vice President, he was instrumental in helping the business survive the Great Depression, working with William C. Heath to find ways to cut costs during the worst economic times in U. S. history. A master at working with people, Rae also helped oversee the war effort, using A. O. Smith's mass production skills to produce millions of bomb casings, torpedo flasks, landing gear, and other equipment. After the war, he oversaw the company's expansion into water heaters, electric motors, and a wide range of other products.
1955-1984 Lloyd Bruce (Ted) Smith
Lloyd B. "Ted" Smith was the fourth generation of the family to head the business. He studied engineering at Yale and served in the Air Force during World War II before joining the company in 1944. One of his first assignments was as the plant manager for the company's water heater operations in Kankakee, Illinois, where he helped with the introduction of the Harvestore ® system. He returned to Milwaukee as President of the company in 1951 (becoming chief executive in 1955) and led the organization through nearly 30 years of growth and diversification. In 1954, he created the A. O. Smith President's Safety Award to help promote safe working practices throughout the organization. He retired from day-to-day operation of the business in 1984 and remained a member of the Board of Directors until 1993.
1984-1992 Thomas I. Dolan
Thomas I. "Tom" Dolan became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of A. O. Smith during one of the most difficult times in its history and helped steer the company through the challenges of recession and foreign competition. Tom joined A. O. Smith in 1980 after more than 30 years in the appliance industry. As a Senior Vice President, he was responsible for the company's water heater and agricultural divisions, and the next year, he was named head of all product divisions. He was elected President and a member of the Board of Directors in 1982 and two years later, succeeded Ted Smith as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. During his tenure, the company made two major acquisitions and began the first of its electric motor and water heater operations in Mexico. He retired in 1992 and remained a member of the Board of Directors until 1996.
1992-2005 Robert J. O'Toole
Robert J. "Bob" O'Toole enjoyed a 42-year career with A. O. Smith Corporation. He began his career as a financial analyst in Milwaukee, moving to the Electric Motor division as controller in 1968. He spent time abroad heading a former English subsidiary, returning to become general plant manager in Tipp City. In 1979, he was named a vice president of the corporation and general manager of the Electric Motors division. He moved back to Milwaukee in 1983 as a senior vice president responsible for Electrical Products and Water Products. He was named President of the company and a member of the Board of Directors in 1986 and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1992. Under his leadership, A. O. Smith surpassed $1 billion in sales and dramatically expanded the size and scope of its electric motor and water heater businesses. In 1995, he was instrumental in launching the company's first joint ventures in The People's Republic of China, and in 1997, he sold the legacy automotive business, a strategic action that set the stage for the company's major growth in the 21st Century. Bob retired as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in December 2005 and remains a member of the Board of Directors.
2006-2012 Paul W. Jones
Paul W. Jones joined A. O. Smith Corporation as President in January 2004 and succeeded Bob O'Toole as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in January 2006. For more on Paul, go to the Senior Leadership Team. He was elected to the company's Board of Directors in December 2004.
Paul joined A. O. Smith after serving as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from 1998 until 2002 of US Can Company, Inc., of Lombard, Ill., a leading provider of containers for personal care, household, paint, and industrial products.
From 1989 until 1998, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of Greenfield Industries, Inc., of Augusta, Ga., a manufacturer of cutting tools and other material-removal products. In that position, he significantly increased sales and profits and led three successful public stock offerings. During that time, the company made 17 acquisitions in North America, Europe, and Israel.
Paul began his career with General Electric Company, spending 19 years in progressively more responsible positions in the Power Systems; Plastics; Drives, Motor and Generator; and Transportation units.
Paul is a member of the Federal-Signal Corporation Board of Directors, the Bucyrus Corporation Board of Directors, a member of the Business Roundtable, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Manufacturers' Association for Productivity Improvement (MAPI). He is a graduate of the University of Evansville (Indiana) with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering.
2013-Present Ajita G. Rajendra
Ajita Rajendra was named President and Chief Executive Officer of A. O. Smith Corporation on January 1, 2013, the ninth CEO in the company's history. His primary responsibilities include strategy development and implementation, profitability, and shareholder returns. Prior to that, he was President and Chief Operating Officer, responsible for A. O. Smith’s water heater operations in North America, China, Europe, and India as well as the company’s water purification business in China and the Lochinvar global boiler business.
Ajita joined A. O. Smith as President of Water Products Company in January 2005 and was named an Executive Vice President of the Corporation in 2006. Prior to joining A. O. Smith, he was Senior Vice President of the Industrial Products Group of Kennametal Inc., Latrobe, Pa., a manufacturer of cutting tools used in aerospace, automotive, and other industrial applications.
Ajita began his career in 1976 with Corning Incorporated, Corning, N.Y., holding a wide range of financial and executive management positions including Director of the company's Retail Operations, Business Director of the Corning Cookware division, and President of the Revere Ware Corporation.
Ajita earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India, and an MBA from Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa. Ajita is a director of Donaldson Company Inc.