John G. Slater
Sales, Material, Management
Noted for pioneering efforts in the field of cellulosics and his significant breakthrough in the acceptance of plastics by the automotive industry.
In 1932, Slater worked with designers, engineers, production people, and management in the automotive industry, as well as with plastic molders to gain approval of Tennessee Eastman Chemicals newly developed cellulose acetate thermoplastic material. This entailed the further development and improvement of the injection molding process to facilitate the cost-effectiveness of this new and useful material.
He pioneered applications for interior knobs, escutcheons, and numerous interior trim parts. A major application was in steering wheels where cellulosic materials are still used today. During the 1930-40 period, he was successful in introducing plastics into eighteen makes of automobiles and several truck lines.
He developed innovative marketing and administrative strategies with teams of technical experts concentrating on each of the major manufacturers. His marketing concepts became a model and were ultimately adopted by all major raw material manufacturers dealing with the burgeoning automotive industry.
He worked with major product designers such as Teague, Bel Geddes, George Walker, Larry Wilson, Sundberg, and Ferrar, as well as material engineers to introduce thermoplastic materials in other industries.
His early life was spent in new Bern, NC, where he worked in his father's lumber business. He attended the University of North Carolina, where he received his BS degree in commerce. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received the Delta Sigma Pi scholarship key.
He joined Eastman Kodak in 1931, and was later transferred to Tennessee Eastman in Kingsport, TN, while the country was in the midst of the great economic depression. Soon after, he was assigned the difficult task of introducing Eastman's new materials into the automotive and related industries.
In 1942, he became a charter member of the SPE. He served the Detroit section as president, and was on the executive committee of three SPE ANTEC meetings. He was named "Man of the Year" by the Detroit Section in 1971, Member Emeritus in 1974, and became a Distinguished Member of SPE in 1976.
He was also an active member of the SPI until his retirement in 1974. During his career years, he was a member of the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Sales Executive Club, and the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Since retirement, he has completed several plastics assignments with the International Executive Service Corps in Kenya and Guatemala.
He and his wife Gibby, the former Emma Gibbs Morisey, live in Chapel Hill, NC. They have five children and ten grandchildren.