About Howard Malcolm "Mac" Baldrige
Howard Malcolm "Mac" Baldrige, Jr. (October 4, 1922 – July 25, 1987) was the 26th United States Secretary of Commerce. He was the son of H. Malcolm Baldrige, a Congressman from Nebraska, and the brother of Letitia Baldrige.
Baldrige was nominated to be Secretary of Commerce by President-elect Ronald Reagan on December 11, 1980, and confirmed by the United States Senate on January 22, 1981. During his tenure, Baldrige played a major role in developing and carrying out Administration trade policy. He took the lead in resolving difficulties in technology transfers with China and India. Baldrige held the first Cabinet-level talks with the Soviet Union in seven years which paved the way for increased access for U.S. firms to the Soviet market. He was highly regarded by the world's most preeminent leaders.
Leading the Administration's effort to pass the Export Trading Company Act of 1982, Baldrige was named by the President to chair a Cabinet-level Trade Strike Force to search out unfair trading practices and recommend ways to end those practices. He was the leader in the reform of the nation's antitrust laws.
Baldrige's award-winning managerial excellence contributed to long-term improvement in economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in government. Within the Commerce Department, Baldrige reduced the budget by more than 30% and administrative personnel by 25%.
"How Plain English Works for Business, Twelve Case Studies" was published by the U.S. Department of Commerce with his introduction, in 1984. In it were twelve chapters on how "translations" of complex legal wording or bureaucratic jargon could be simplified and made more clear to any reader. In the section on insurance policy language, an example showed the cumbersome nature of "While this policy has a loan value, the owner may obtain an advance from XYZ Company upon assignment of the policy as sole security." It became "You can get a loan from us on your policy while it has a loan value. The policy can be the sole security for the loan."
Baldridge's introduction read, in part, "Talking or writing in plain English is a challenge to both the private and public sectors. In this book of case studies, 12 corporations and trade associations tell how they met this challenge. I am grateful for the efforts their officials have given to this partnersip project."
Prior to entering the Cabinet, Baldrige was chairman and chief executive officer of Scovill, Inc., Waterbury, Connecticut. Having joined Scovill in 1962, he is credited with leading its transformation to a highly diversified manufacturer of consumer, housing and industrial goods from a financially troubled brass mill.
Baldrige began his career in the manufacturing industry in 1947 as a foundry hand in an iron company in Connecticut and rose to the presidency of that company by 1960. During World War II, Baldrige served in combat in the Pacific as Captain in the 27th Infantry Division. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska to H. Malcolm Baldrige, and graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in 1944. At Yale he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon.
Baldrige worked during his boyhood as a ranch hand and earned several awards as a professional team roper on the rodeo circuit. He was a Professional Rodeo Man of the Year in 1980 and was installed in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1999. Baldrige once appeared on the television game show To Tell the Truth pretending to be rodeo tie-down roping champion Dean Oliver.
Baldrige died July 25, 1987, in John Muir Hospital, Walnut Creek, California, after a rodeo accident in Brentwood, Contra Costa County, in Northern California. Sixty-four at the time, his injuries occurred when his horse in calf-roping competition fell on him. He was flown from the accident on the Jack Roddy Ranch to the hospital by helicoptor but his injuries were too severe. His service as Secretary of Commerce was one of the longest in history. He is said to have been possibly the most colorful Secretary of Commerce and one of the most beloved. He was survived by his wife Margaret and his two children.
Baldrige was a proponent of quality management as a key to this country's prosperity and long-term strength. He took a personal interest in the legislation that became the Quality Improvement Act of 1987 and helped draft one of the early versions. In recognition of his contributions, Congress named the annual award (see Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award) for product quality in his honor.
On October 17, 1988, Baldridge was presented, posthumously, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.