Edmund Fitzgerald

Insurance Executive
Date Of Birth:
1 March 1895
Date Of Death:
9 January 1986
Place Of Birth:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Best Known As:
The namesake of the ship that sank on Lake Superior in 1975
Edmund Fitzgerald of Wisconsin wasn’t as famous as his name became, thanks to the 1975 sinking of a ship named after him. The tragedy inspired a 1976 hit song by Gordon Lightfoot, the ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Fitzgerald was the son and grandson of shipbuilders, with many family members having been captains on the Great Lakes. Fitzgerald served in World War I and graduated from Yale University in 1916. Back in Milwaukee by 1920, Fitzgerald was a businessman who worked for an iron company, a paper company and a couple of banks before getting on at the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1933. He was ultimately president of the company from 1947 until 1958, when they named him chairman. That same year, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was launched, a ship paid for by Northwestern Mutual behind Fitzgerald’s urging. For about a year the ship was the largest vessel on the Great Lakes (it was eclipsed by a ship one foot longer). On its 749th trip, after 17 years of steady service, the ship sank in a storm on November 10, 1975, killing all 29 crew members. Precisely how and why it sank remains a mystery. At the time, Fitzgerald had been retired for fifteen years. Despite the tragedy, Fitzgerald’s legacy as a community booster was sound and his success as a business leader was widely known.
Extra Credit

Edmund Fitzgerald’s son was Edmund Bacon Fitzgerald, a Wisconsin businessman who co-founded the Milwaukee Brewers major league baseball team in 1970.

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