Charles Newton Kimball (1911-1994) Papers (KC0055)
Dr. Kimball's association with Midwest Research Institute (MRI) spanned more than three decades of Institute growth and outstanding achievement. As president of MRI from 1950 to 1975, Dr. Kimball provided the executive leadership for MRI to become one of the nation's most prominent not-for-profit research organizations in science and technology. He subsequently served as chairman of the Institute's Board of Trustees until 1979, when he assumed the position of president emeritus. During this period, Dr. Kimball was an acknowledged leader of Kansas City and the Midwest.
Kimball was born in Charlestown, near Boston. He attended Northeastern University for his undergraduate degree before enrolling in graduate school at Harvard University, where he earned master's and doctorate degrees, in 1932 and 1933 respectively. His first job was with RCA, which launched him on a career in the then relatively new field of telecommunications, and involved him in electronics and aircraft equipment.
Charles Kimball first came to Kansas City during World War II as vice president and director of the Aircraft Accessory Corporation (Aireon Manufacturing Company). He later was employed by the C.J. Patterson Company, where he applied electronics to the baking and milling industries. In 1948, Kimball left Kansas City to become the technical director of the research division of Bendix Aviation Corporation in Detroit. However, in early 1950 he responded to an urgent call to return and accept the presidency of Midwest Research Institute.
During the ensuing years, the name of Charles Kimball became synonymous with Midwest Research Institute. MRI's research efforts, especially designed to stimulate economic development in America's heartland, depended on identifying the research needs of paying sponsors and meeting those needs with careful, practical, scientific investigations. The Institute also served as a clearinghouse for scientific information to be shared with the community, and as a focal point of technical assistance to large and small industrial and agricultural interests, as well as to state, local, and federal agencies. A major interest at MRI under Kimball's leadership was the transfer of specialized technology from one industry to more generalized use among many industries. One example of this commitment to "technology transfer" was a major NASA program contracted to MRI to distribute advances gained from aerospace research into U.S. domestic markets.
Kimball's impact extends far beyond the business environment of MRI, however. He soon came to play a major role in promoting Kansas City and encouraging its social, economic, and cultural development. He became one of the city's and the Midwest's biggest boosters, personally active in campaigns to bring major league baseball to Kansas City, to establish Kansas City as one of the ten federal regional centers, and to integrate the University of Kansas City into the Missouri University System. Among the organizations with which he worked were the Mid-Continent Development Council, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, the Civic Council, the Kansas City Area Economic Development Council. Perhaps the most significant effort was his work with Hallmark board chairman Donald J. Hall to establish the Kansas City Prime Time organization. They directed public relations activities to enhance Kansas City's visibility and image throughout the nation, to identify the city as an area for economic development, and to stimulate convention and visitor business for the city. The high point of the Prime Time effort was Kansas City's role as host city for the 1976 Republican National Convention.
In the philanthropic arena, Kimball was president, then chairman of the United Way, and helped to reshape that organization's direction. He led in the establishment of two organizations of great importance to the community's future: the Clearinghouse for Mid-continent Foundations and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. He actively supported the Mid America Heart Institute at St. Luke's Hospital, and was a guiding force behind the St. Luke's Foundation. Kimball worked with both traditional and non-traditional educational institutions to advance educational opportunities in Kansas City. In 1957, he was one of the founders of Science Pioneers, the organization which sponsors the annual Greater Kansas City Science Fair and other science educational activities. While MRI was the central focus of Kimball's business life, two corporate boards were especially important to him--Hallmark Cards, Incorporated, on whose board he served from 1962 to 1976, and Trans World Airlines and Trans World Corporation, where he was a board member 1965 to 1981.
Kimball did not limit his vision to the Kansas City area, or even to the Midwest region. In 1957, President Eisenhower asked him to chair a White House conference on research and development for small business. In 1977, he became a member of the Advisory Council for the Office of Technology Assessment, a research arm of the U.S. Congress, and he was chairman of this prestigious committee for four years. His greatest post-retirement interest had become genealogy and family history. He published books recounting the history of his own and his wife's families through several generations.
The Charles N. Kimball Papers reflect Kimball's varied professional and personal interests and activities. They include correspondence, reports, photographs, and other materials relating to Kimball's diverse interests and activities. 1911-1994.
43 cubic feet.
© State Historical Society of Missouri
Monday, February 07, 2011
State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu