Avery, Sewell Lee
(1874-1960)
   Businessman Sewell Avery was born in Saginaw, Michigan. He attended Michigan Military Academy and the University of Michigan Law School, where he graduated in 1894. He became the manager of a plaster works in Alabaster, Michigan, which later became part of U.S. Gypsum. Avery became president of the company in 1905 and held that position until 1937. Under his leadership, U.S. Gypsum became the nation’s biggest supplier of building materials. In 1931, Avery became chair of the Montgomery Ward mail-order company and once more led the company to success. However, during World War II he was in constant dispute with the National War Labor Board over its “maintenance of membership” policy, which strengthened trade union organization. In April 1944, Avery was physically removed from his office by soldiers, and the military took over the company in 1944 and 1945. After the war, Montgomery Ward’s success declined, and Avery’s high-handed management led shareholders to force his resignation in 1955.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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