Edward Renehan, Author
The Life of Charles Stewart Mott
August 14, 2019
In the second segment Fish welcomes Edward Renehan, author of the new biography of Charles Stewart Mott. The book is entitled “The Life of Charles Stewart Mott”.
MISTER Mott as he was known in Flint almost all of his life (usually called Charley by close friends and when he was younger) was more than an icon. To many he WAS Flint, in fact he was often called “Mr. Flint”, and not without good reason.
Mott was responsible for helping to build the city in to the envy of the nation on several fronts - serving as Mayor of Flint three times, working as a General Motors Director for 60 years (and largest GM shareholder in the world), co creating the Flint Community School program, and creating the Mott Foundation that has provided over one BILLION dollars in philanthropic gifts to the city of the Flint.
Along the way he was responsible for bringing both Mott Community College to Flint, and the University of Michigan, donating the land and providing millions of dollars to support the arts and sports and building the college and cultural center, a medical system for the needy, and a host of programs that fostered interracial integration and understanding way ahead of the Civil Rights movement.
He personally replaced over 3.5 millions of dollars that were embezzled from the Union Industrial Bank in a massive employee scheme. He even provided the impetus and nearly half of the monies needed to build the mighty Michigan Mackinac Bridge connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of the state!
His foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, is among the most well endowed in the world. This is explicitly because of the contributions of Mr. Mott himself. In 1963, he quietly donated 128 million in GM stock to the foundation (that’s well over one billion in 2019 dollars), and when he died in 1973 the Foundation held assets of more than 400 million (nearly 2.5 billion in 2019 dollars). Those are eye popping charitable contributions, especially the one considers that he left over 2 billion, in 2019 dollars, to family trusts and inheritances.
Despite this incredible wealth, he was first to pick up a hammer and help rebuild homes during the horrific Flint Beecher Tornado of 1953, insisting on personally climbing a ladder to roof and shingle homes - at age 78. He was truly one of a kind. When he finally passed in ’73 the entire city shut down for a moment of silence to honor him.
His was a dramatic and impactful life and Renehan was tasked with capturing the life to help people understand this life in a deeper and more meaningful way. To do this he had to delve deep in to primary source documents. Although engaged by the Ruth Mott Foundation he was given carte blanche to follow wherever the story may lead, and do so without any admonitions against treading in to controversial waters. Only in this way could he tell the true story of Mott and his authentic impact.
Fish and Ed discuss how he did this, and explore some of the key issues of Mott’s life. This is part one of what will be a two part interview (and with perhaps more to come later as Ed has graciously agreed to do another whole segment). This first visit will undoubtedly whet your whistle for more information on Mott, and the transformative life he led.
Renehan has authored 20 books including biographies of Wall Street legend Jay Gould “Dark Genius of Wall Street”, and “The Lions Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and his Family in Peace and War.” While those were large lives of great meaning, Mott’s is exceptional as well, the unique factor being as Renehan admits, that few outside of Flint have any idea who Mott was. That may change now with this book and we’re happy to help promote Mr. Flint to the rest of the world on Fish and The Flint Chronicles. Indeed among all of the Flint stories we tell, the one of Charles Stewart Mott is among the most valuable and important we could ever chronicle. It’s a great interview with Ed, the book is a great read, and if you’re from Flint you don’t need any help understanding just how truly BIG the story is!