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Irving S. Shapiro

  • Born: July 15, 1916, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Died: September 13, 2001

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0124
Interview Date: December 15, 1994
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Interviewers: James J. Bohning and Bernadette R. McNulty
No. of pages: 54
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Irving Shapiro begins this interview by discussing his parents' backgrounds and the influence of his father's interest in law and accounting. Next Shapiro examines his own early intellectual strengths and proclivities and his undergraduate and law school performance. He describes the path which took him from a private practice in Minneapolis, to the U.S. Office of Price Administration during WWII, to the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division, where his highly publicized work prosecuting the eleven Communists brought him to the attention of the DuPont legal department. Shapiro recalls how his appointment as a DuPont General Counsel heralded a new era for the company in terms of its attitude toward Jews. In considering his advancement to CEO, Shapiro emphasizes his relationships with Walter Carpenter, Crawford Greenewalt, and Charles McCoy, as well as his work with the industrial departments and in disputes involving General Motors, Ford Motors, and Ralph Nader. Next, while discussing his career as CEO, Shapiro explains how his management and communication practices impacted on public and internal views of DuPont and allowed talented employees to blossom. He touches on his relationships with Edward Kane and Edward Jefferson and his commitment to DuPont's research and development, and he speaks more generally of his views of foreign competition, business-community relations with the media and government, the Business Roundtable, and his legacy to the history of DuPont. Finally, Shapiro describes his post-DuPont work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom, and at the Howard Hughes Institute.


1939 B.S., Pre-Law, University of Minnesota
1941 L.L.B. University of Minnesota

  Professional Experience

Private Practice

1941 - 1941 Attorney

U. S. Office of Price Administration

1941 - 1943 Attorney

U.S. Department of Justice

1943 - 1951 Attorney, Criminal Division

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1951 - 1965 Attorney, Legal Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1965 - 1970 Assistant General Counsel

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1970 - 1972 Vice President

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1970 - 1973 Director, Executive Committee Member

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1972 - 1974 Senior Vice President

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1973 - 1973 Vice Chairman of the Board

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1974 - 1981 Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board, Finance Committee

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom

1981 - 1990 Member, Chairman of Public Affairs Committee

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom

1990 Partner


1979 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background and Situation 1

Parents emigrate separately from Lithuania, meet in Minnesota. Father's interest in accounting and law; it's influence. Family business.

Education and Early Career 3

Pre-law interests and law school career at University of Minnesota. Early law career. Work at Office of Price Administration designing WWII rationing system. Marriage. Acquaintance with Richard Nixon.

U.S. Department of Justice 8

Beginnings in Criminal Division, writing briefs. Supreme Court arguments. Screws Civil Rights case. Trial of the eleven Communists.

Early Dupont Career 14

Coming to DuPont after initial opposition. Being Jewish at DuPont. Relationship with Walter Carpenter. General Motors divestiture. Problem solving in industrial departments and career advancement. Relationships with Crawford Greenewalt and Charles McCoy. Ralph Nader investigation. Role of legal department within Dupont. Patent disputes with Ford Motors. Corfam decision.

Career as Dupont's CEO 24

Oil crisis and effects on business agenda. Changes in public perception of DuPont. Communication and management/personnel strategies. Roles of executive committee, decision making, commitment to research and development. Opportunities for women and ethnic minorities at DuPont. Foreign Competition. Ed Jefferson's role.

Views of Business Leadership 35

Views on relations among business, media, and government. Leadership of Business Roundtable, lobbying. Public attitudes toward the chemical industry. Industry, environmental issues, and public policy.

Retiring from DuPont 41

View of legacy. Clients at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom. Authorship of America's Third Revolution. Work as trustee of the Howard Hughes Institute. Views on management.

  About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and has presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was the foundation’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

Bernadette R. McNulty

Bernadette R. McNulty, former oral history project manager for the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), holds a B.A. in communications and social work and an M.A. and Ph.D. in communications. She held several teaching and research-related appointments, including positions at Muhlenberg and Rowan Colleges and Temple University, before joining CHF's oral history program in 1994.

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