Charles M. Heald

Charles M. Heald. In the domain of material achievement Charles M. Heald is a man who has thought and wrought both worthily and mightily. Of the character and scope of his achievements adequate revelation will be given in this brief review, though the record must needs be one in which there is elimination of details. After many years of association with railroad service, in executive positions of maximum importance, Mr. Heald, though he has passed .the psalmist’s span of three score years and ten, refuses to leave the ranks of the world’s constructive workers, and in the city of Grand Rapids he is now president of the Home Building Association, a corporation which supplied a demand for homes and which have since been sold to working men by contract or partial payment plan. Charles M. Heald, former president of the Pere Marquette Railroad, was born in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, July 1, 1849. The death of his father, in 1868, necessitated Mr. Heald’s withdrawal from Yale University in his junior year, and he manfully took up the practical duties of life, the while he made due provision also for the care of his widowed mother with the most insistent of filial devotion. His father, who had been a wholesale tobacco merchant of wealth and influence and with large holdings in the southern states, met with heavy financial reverses when the Civil war was precipitated on the nation and brought disruption of all business industry in the south, and thus the subject of this review found his course changed from the line of affluence and family prestige to that of individual effort in making his way in the world. He was for a time employed as clerk in wholesale millinery and hardware establishments in his native city, and eventually he took a clerical position in the transportation department of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, with which corporation he won advancement through his own ability and efficiency. In 1878 he was called to New York City and given charge of the passenger department of the Long Island Railroad. Three years later, after a change in the ownership of this system, Mr. Heald returned to Baltimore and resumed his association with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Three months later he was again tendered a position with the Long Island Railroad, and when, six years thereafter, the president of this road was elected president of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, Mr. Heald was given charge of the freight department of the latter system. After three years there came to him a still more important advancement in railway service, in his election to the office of president of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad, which is now a part of the Erie Railroad system. In 1890 Mr. Heald came to Michigan to accept the position of general manager of the Chicago & West Michigan Railroad and the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad, of both of which he was made president within a short time thereafter. In 1899 Mr. Heald was one of the prime factors in formulating the plans that resulted in the consolidation of these Lines to form the present Pere Marquette System. He was made the first president of the Pere Marquette Railroad Company, and of this office he continued the incumbent until the sale of the properties, in 1903, when he, with other officials, retired from the management of the properties. Shortly afterward Mr. Heald was called to New York to complete the purchase of a fleet of six steamboats and large terminal facilities in the city of Buffalo. He was elected president and general manager of the corporation, which increased its fleet to twelve modern vessels, in commission between Buffalo, New York, and Duluth, Minnesota. The company continued its successful operations until 1915, when a clause in the Panama Canal Act of Congress designated as illegal all steamship lines in which railroads were interested, with the result that this and other railroad-owned steamship lines were sold to the Great Lakes Transit Company. It was at this juncture in the career of Mr. Heald, in 1915, that he was elected a member of the first municipal board of commissioners of the city of Buffalo, which had just adopted the commission system of government. This preferment was a noteworthy recognition of the civic loyalty and public spirit of Mr. Heald, and he gave four years of characteristically effective service as city commissioner. In 1920, Mr. Heald returned to Grand Rapids and was chosen president of the Home Building Association of that city, and he thus returned to Michigan’s vital "Valley City" and assumed active charge of the program which contemplated the erection of 1,000 dwellings. Though Mr. Heald is now (1925) seventy-six years of age, he is still actively engaged in the directing of business affairs of broad scope and importance, and his cannot be other than a gracious retrospect of an individual career that has been one of worthy service—and service is the ultimate justification for every human life. He has been true and loyal in all of the relations of life, and has ever had inviolable place in popular confidence and esteem. The political allegiance of Mr. Heald is favorable to the Democratic party, and he and his wife are communicants of Grace church, Protestant Episcopal, in their home city. Mr. Heald has been affiliated with the Masonic fraternity since 1874, and has been an appreciative student of its history and benignant teachings. In this time-honored fraternity he has passed the various chairs in both York and Scottish Rite organizations, and in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite he has received the Thirty-third, an ultimate degree, this honor having come to him in 1898. He is dean of past commanders of Knights Templar in Grand Rapids, and is a past Sovereign Prince of the Council of Jerusalem. Mr. Heald was formerly president of the Peninsular Club of Grand Rapids, and while a resident of Buffalo, New York, served as president of the University Club, and also of the Park Club, besides which he is an active member of the Kent Country Club, he having been one of its organizers. In 1868 he left Yale University, but in 1890 was awarded the degree of .Master of Arts and restored to full standing in his class. Every five years he attends the reunions of his class, in which are many men who have attained to prominence in varied walks of life. At Yale he was affiliated with the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. In 1871 was solemnized his marriage to Miss Elizabeth Clark, who was born and reared in the state of Maryland, and whose death occurred in 1920. The second marriage of Mr. Heald was with Mrs. Florence (Fitts) Smiley, widow of Mitchell Smiley, and she is the gracious and popular chatelaine of their pleasant home in Grand Rapids.

Transcriber: Nancy Lesser
Created: 4 March 2003