Owen D. Young (the "D" signifying no particular name) was born in Van Hornesville, N.Y., on October 27, 1874. He was 16 years old when his parents mortgaged the farm to send him to St. Lawrence University at Canton, N.Y. Upon his graduation in 1894, he turned to Boston University where he completed the three-year law course in two years, while also supporting himself by tutoring and library work.
In 1896, Young joined the Boston Law office of Charles H. Tyler and within a few years became a partner where he came to the attention of Charles A. Coffin, the first president of General Electric. In 1913, he became chief counsel and vice president in Charge of Policy.
In 1919, at the request of the government, Young created the Radio Corporation of America to combat threatened foreign control of America's struggling radio industry. He served as RCA's board chairman until 1929.
The GE Board of Directors elected him president of the company in 1922. Later in 1922 Young succeeded Coffin as chairman of the board of General Electric while Gerard Swope was appointed president of the company. They remained in these roles until 1939, when they both asked for retirement.
Under their direction, GE began the extensive manufacture of electric appliances for home use. The introduction of a host of electrical consumer goods required extensive enlargement of GE's advertising, marketing, distribution and service organizations - not to mention its engineering and manufacturing facilities.
The Depression did not spare GE, but the diversification measures, which Young and Swope had instituted improved the economic security and general welfare of GE workers and helped cushion the blows of the Depression.
Young served as a member of the German reparations commission in 1924. Out of this international conference came the Dawes plan. In 1929, Young was called upon to head another committee of experts to unify further German payments. This group drafted the Young Plan for handling reparation payments on the basis of a new total sum.
From 1924 through 1932, his name figured prominently as a possible Democratic nominee for president, but he refused to encourage the hat-flingers.
In 1942, Owen D. Young returned as chairman of the board of GE. He remained as the chairman of the board until 1945.
Long active in education, Young was a trustee of St. Lawrence University from 1912 to 1934, serving as president of the board the last 10 years. He was a member of the New York State Board of Regents, governing body of New York's educational system, until 1946 when Governor Thomas E. Dewey called upon him to head the state commission that laid the groundwork for a state university system in New York.