Great Living Cincinnatians
Awarded in 1997
From the products lining their kitchen and bathroom shelves to the roads they travel around town, Cincinnatians' lives are affected every day by the legacy of John Smale.
Smale, a native of Listowel, Ontario, Canada, came to the region to attend college at Miami University, graduating in 1949.
Following a brief stint in sales at the Vick Chemical Company, Smale joined Procter & Gamble's Toilet Goods organization in 1952 and began a steady climb up the chain of command: Division vice president, vice president-group executive, executive vice president, board member, and finally president in 1974, CEO in 1981 and board chairman in 1986.
In 1990, Smale retired from Procter & Gamble but answered General Motors' call for leadership in 1992, becoming the auto-maker's board chairman for three years.
But for many, Smale will be best remembered for chairing the Smale Commission, a group of business leaders that examined Cincinnati's infrastructure woes in 1986 and 1987. The group eventually formulated more than 100 recommendations for Cincinnati City Council. "It worked because there was involvement by so many people," Smale recalled. "They were excited they felt they were making a contribution to the city."
Smale, downplayed his leadership role in shaping the future of Cincinnati. "It's hard for me to distinguish the motivations that draw you into involvement in the city," he said. "There's a heavy Procter & Gamble influence on it. There's always been an emphasis on making this a good place to live.
"We bring people in from all over the world," he said. "It's very important that this be an attractive city."
Mr. Smale died Nov. 19, 2011 at 84.