continued from part 2…
Jesse Jones, Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Commerce, was a rugged Tennessean who was hard to meet and harder to know. Joseph Washington “Jeeps” Frazer was President of Willys-Overland, a scion of the Virginia Washingtons and Nashville Frazers; but this and more wouldn’t get him in to see Jesse Jones at Commerce. Seeing Jones required more powerful strategy.
On an urgent mission to Washington for his Jeep-building company, Joe Frazer had arrived one morning in 1943 and parked himself in Jones’s outer office, despite repeated warnings that the Secretary wasn’t likely to arrive until evening—if at all. Finally at 7PM, Jones breezed in, saying he was too busy to talk to anyone and heading for his private office.
“Mistah Jones,” J. W. Frazer boomed in deepest Southern drawl: “One Robertson County boy jus’ cain’tdo that to another Robertson Country boy!” Jesse Jones, arrested in mid-stride, wheeled and beheld his well-tailored visitor, and beckoned Joe to his office. There the two of them spent the next hour contemplating business, life, bourbon and branch water. Frazer reemerged at 8PM with Jones at his heels: “No problem at all, Jay-dubya, glad you stopped by…y’all come back and see me again, heah?”
Robust of build with flashing blue eyes, Joe Frazer was typical of the gregarious, hard-driving professionals who surrounded Walter Chrysler. It is not surprising that he flits in and out of history, not only of Chrysler Corporation, but many of the associated makes and companies now part of Chrysler’s heritage.
—Excerpted from “Chrysler People: Joe Frazer,” written for Forward, the Chrysler historical magazine, September 2000.
In April 2012, Joseph Washington Frazer (1892-1971) will be inducted, belatedly, into the Automotive Hall of Fame, with his erstwhile partner, Henry J. Kaiser, co-founders of the world’s fourth-largest auto manufacturer during 1946-48. This article is updated from the obituaries I wrote for JWF on his death in 1971. For more on Frazer, see my book, Kaiser-Frazer: Last Onslaught on Detroit.