- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thomas Gilmore Pownall, former chairman and chief executive officer of Martin Marietta Corp., died June 24 at ManorCare in Potomac. He was 83.

Mr. Pownall gained corporate celebrity in 1982 for his leadership during Martin Marietta’s successful defense of an unfriendly takeover attempt. He and his board of directors repelled the attack of Bendix Corp. in a 33-day fight that made corporate business history.

Martin Marietta survived, and Mr. Pownall was credited with the rapid eradication of the company’s debt and reshaping of the conglomerate into the defense and aerospace firm that later became the merged Lockheed Martin Corp.

Born in Cumberland, Md., where his mother was visiting at the time, Mr. Pownall grew up in Moorefield, W.Va., and claimed that state as his birthright. He was educated in Moorefield public schools and was a graduate of Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, where he was captain of the football team.

He also played football at the Naval Academy, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1946.

Mr. Pownall served two years aboard a destroyer in the Pacific during the Korean War. He often told colleagues that his decision to leave the Navy was the biggest mistake of his life.

He worked briefly in the paper box business and as a salesman for a steel fabricator and for General Motors’ Chevrolet division in Ohio before joining the Convair division of General Dynamics Corp. in San Diego in 1955. He transferred with General Dynamics from California to Ohio and then to Washington. A couple of years later, he joined Fairbanks Morse.

Mr. Pownall participated briefly in politics in 1952, working as an advance man, joining his friend and neighbor, Herbert G. Klein, in campaigns for Dwight D. Eisenhower and later for Richard Nixon.

Mr. Pownall joined Martin Marietta in 1963 as vice president for advanced planning for its aerospace company. He rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming president of the company and a vice president of the parent corporation in 1969, member of the board of directors in 1971, president and chief operating officer in 1977, chief executive officer in 1982, and chairman in 1983, a position he held until retirement in 1987. Mr. Pownall continued on Martin Marietta’s board of directors until 1991.

He was a trustee of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and trustee emeritus after 27 years. He also served on the boards of Sunstrand Corp., SMC Corp., Mellon-Stuart Co., Geico Investment Trust Series, J.F. Lehman Co., Titan Corp., American-Turkish Council, as well as vice chairman of the Police Foundation and president of Lamplighters of La Jolla.

He was a president of the Aerospace Industries Association, a voting member of the Conference Board, and a trustee of the University of Maryland Foundation, the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation, Salem-Teikyo University in West Virginia, Davis and Elkins College, the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and Youth Service USA.

Mr. Pownall was chairman of a Washington Federal City Council task force on science and mathematics education, and was active in a variety of other educational and public service activities. He also was a longtime member of the Burning Tree and Congressional country clubs.

The Air Force Association honored Mr. Pownall in 1976 with its Theodore von Karman Award for outstanding achievement in science and engineering for Martin Marietta’s design, development and manufacture of the two Viking spacecraft that NASA landed on Mars, in mankind’s first exploration of the Red Planet.

In 1984, he was named Business Leader of the Year by the Sellinger School of Business and Management of Baltimore’s Loyola College. He was named 1985 Citizen of the Year by the National Capital Area Council of Boy Scouts.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Marilyn Cunnick Pownall, of Potomac; two daughters, Suzi Locke of Chevy Chase and Marianne Billings of Potomac; a sister, Molly Peters of Pittsburgh; and six grandchildren.

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