Harry Mack Cornell, Jr., son of Harry Mack Cornell and Marjorie Leggett Cornell, was born October 5, 1928, in Palembang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies. The family returned to Carthage in 1932. A graduate of Carthage High School and the University of Missouri, Mr. Cornell joined the sales team at Leggett & Platt, Inc. in 1950. Working his way up through the ranks, he developed a reputation for tenacity, hard work, and skilled leadership. The board named him President & Chief Executive Officer in 1960.
Leggett and Platt, Inc. was always part of his life. His grandfather, J. P. Leggett, co-founded the company; his father served as President, and his mother as a director. Over the course of 48 years, he transformed a small, regional company, founded in 1883 to manufacture springs into a world leader in the manufacture of a diverse group of products for homes, offices, and automobiles. In 1960, L & P operated three plants with $7 million in annual sales; by 1999, upon his retirement, it was a $4 billion company with 130 locations in 18 countries. Today, the 135-year-old company is a diversified manufacturer of engineered components and products in 14 business units and has 22,000 employee-partners working in 120 facilities in 18 countries.
Mr. Cornell was a visionary CEO who considered each achievement to be a team effort, encouraging others to strive for excellence and to focus on continual improvement. Under his leadership, L & P was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1979 and in 1982, Mr. Cornell was elected Chairman of the Board, a position he retained until 1999. In 1998, Leggett & Platt was ranked in the top 6% of 500 major corporations in the Fortune survey, “America’s Most Admired Corporations.” By 1999, L & P had become one of the largest publicly traded corporations in the U.S. and was included in the S & P 500. In 2002, Mr. Cornell was named Chairman Emeritus of the Board; he retired in 2008 after 58 years of service. L & P’s Carthage headquarters was renamed the Cornell Campus in 2016 to honor his role in its success. A life-size bronze statue of Mr. Cornell welcomes visitors to the headquarters.
Mr. Cornell has received numerous awards and honors, including the CEO Awards from Financial World and The Wall Street Transcript, Carthage Citizen of the Year, induction into the American Furniture Hall of Fame as an Industry Fellow, and a Lifetime Bedding Achievement Award as a Retail Giant of Bedding by Furniture Today.
Harry Mack recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Over the years, he has supported numerous philanthropic endeavors. At his alma mater MU, he was instrumental in developing a new home for the business school, dedicated as Cornell Hall in 2002. In 2003, MU awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law. He also funds the Cornell Leadership Program at MU. His legacy extends to Joplin and the Cornell-Beshore Cancer Institute at Freeman Health System, the Harry M. Cornell Medical Education Center at the Joplin Campus of Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences, and the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex, currently under development.