Ray Jordan, Former JC Penney President, Dies

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Former JC Penney president Ray H. Jordan died Sept. 16 in Vero Beach, FL. He was 98.


In what the company described as an uncharacteristic move, the board of directors elected Jordan president in 1964, one year before his scheduled retirement. It also asked him to stay on after that date, which he did, retiring in 1968.


He partnered with then-chairman Mil Batten in introducing changes that transformed JC Penney from a "chain of Main Street merchants serving primarily small towns into a mass-market retailer with stores largely sited in regional malls," the company said in a statement announcing his death.


Jordan was crucial in the company's entrance into catalogs. When Batten gave him carte blanche in the early 1960s to learn everything he could about the industry, Jordan -- then an executive vice president -- visited Chicago to study the catalog operations of merchants such as Spiegel and Sears.


He found a small catalog operation in Milwaukee, General Merchandise Co. Jordan suggested to the board of directors that JC Penney buy the company, which it did in 1962, making it the nucleus of the new catalog operation.


Jordan began his JC Penney career in 1930 in Picher, OK. He was appointed manager of the Fort Worth, TX, store in 1938, and became district manager in Portland, OR, in 1941. He later was New York district manager and the first Eastern Zone manager, overseeing nine districts.


In 1954, Jordan was named assistant treasurer, later moving up to treasurer, vice president and director of personnel, executive vice president and president. He was elected to the board of directors in 1958.


He is survived by his wife, Rosalie; two daughters, Judith Rae Sartori of Uniondale, NY, and Rosalinda Jordan of Sebastian, FL; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date, the company said.


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