Harry M. Cornell, Jr.: A Lifetime of Leadership

On May 16, our Corporate headquarters was dedicated as the Cornell Campus after Harry M. Cornell, Jr., whose legacy of honesty, commitment, and accountability defines our company culture to this day. The dedication included presentations from Leggett’s leaders, which detailed Harry’s remarkable contributions to the company. Future plans were also announced to erect a statue of Harry at the front office entrance.

As part of the dedication, Leggett unveiled a new sign at the campus entrance.

Harry Cornell knew “L&P” before he learned his ABCs. As the grandson of co-founder, J.P. Leggett, and the son of former President Mack and director Marjorie Cornell, there was never a time that L&P wasn’t part of his life. From high school summers spent unloading rail cars to his post-college years as a traveling salesman, from plant manager to his eventual role as long-standing Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, Harry has had a lifelong commitment to Leggett & Platt.

Committed to Success

In 1960, L&P was a private spring company with four U.S. factories generating $7 million in annual sales. As the new CEO, Harry envisioned five steps to L&P growth:

  • Build long-term relationships with employees, customers, and potential partners
  • Invest in maintaining and upgrading existing facilities
  • Broaden the product lineup
  • Extend geographically
  • Acquire new businesses

Harry’s system worked. At the end of his tenure as CEO in 1999, L&P’s annual sales had exploded to $3.5 billion from nearly 200 factories in 18 countries manufacturing a diverse group of products found throughout the home, the office and in automobiles.

Committed to Improvement

It took more than just his five-point plan to accomplish such growth—Harry had the drive to never stop at “good enough.” Harry constantly encouraged L&P to improve and innovate, often making our own products obsolete. He recognized how satellite distribution centers could serve customers on a “just in time” basis, even before the term was invented. Harry also oversaw 196 acquisitions, breaking L&P into new markets geographically, across product lines, and through vertical integration. His example endures to this day in L&P’s ongoing focus on continuous improvement.

Committed to Culture

Beyond his business acumen, Harry also recognized that a company is only as good as its people. His dedication to team building and his ownership mentality set the standard for our ongoing corporate culture.

Our current CEO, Karl Glassman, had the honor of working with Harry for many years. “Harry exemplifies what it is to be discontent with the status quo, demanding the highest standards from everyone, himself included. But L&P was always something more personal to Harry, as evidenced by the way he cared about each of his employees. Most employees from Harry’s tenure have stories about the CEO dropping in for a personal introduction, to check on a project, or to simply see how they were doing. He invested himself in L&P’s people – inspiring us to work that much harder to meet our goals.”

Harry Cornell pictured at work, circa 1970 (left) and 1990.

Leggett & Platt's board of directors and officers in 1971.

Harry Cornell with Leggett’s board of directors and officers in 1971.

Harry M. Cornell, Jr. at the Cornell Campus dedication on May 16, 2016.

Harry Cornell spoke at the Cornell Campus dedication on May 16, 2016.

Amy DeArmond and Harry Cornell

Amy DeArmond and Harry Cornell after the Cornell Campus dedication.