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Published: Wednesday, 5/22/2013

Dempsey M. Humphries, Jr., 1919-2013: Retired exec led Bostwick-Braun

Humphries Humphries

Dempsey Marshall Humphries, Jr., who rose through the ranks at hardware distributor Bostwick-Braun Co. and was credited with devising a plan to shift the firm’s ownership from a family to its employees, died Friday in his retirement community residence in Newnan, Ga. He was 93.

A nonsmoker, he learned he had lung cancer less than a month ago, said daughter Jane Jett. He lived the last 12 years at Wesley Woods of Newnan-Peachtree City.

Mr. Humphries, formerly of South Toledo, retired in 1984 as chairman of Bostwick-Braun, a company with Toledo roots dating to 1855.

He worked in labor relations at the Kroger Co. in Cincinnati when Bostwick-Braun hired him in 1951 as personnel director. He was named operations manager in 1954 and vice president of operations in 1956, when he was elected a director. He was elevated in 1972 from executive vice president to president. He became chairman in 1982.

“He felt if he got the right people in the right jobs and allowed them to do their jobs, things would work well, and that’s the way it happened,” said Richard E. Smith, who retired in 2002 as chairman.

Mr. Humphries told The Blade in 1981 the firm had been at a crossroads: younger members of the Thompson family, its longtime owners, weren’t interested in running the business. Mr. Humphries said he saw the potential danger of an outside buyer and urged company officers to adopt an “employee stock ownership plan.” Employees became the owners in 1980.

“He did it pretty much on his own. It’s the reason the company is flourishing today,” Mr. Smith said.

He was a director of the former First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Toledo and Pro Hardware Inc., Stamford, Conn., and was a trustee of St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee.

Born in Florence, Ala., he was a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he majored in accounting. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and was commander of a PT boat in the south Pacific. He and his wife, Geraldine, married Nov. 14, 1945. She died in October, 1997.

Surviving are his daughters, Lynn Borg, Jane Jett, and Joanie Taylor; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life service will be at 4 p.m. Monday in his retirement community. Arrangements are by the McKoon Funeral Home, Newnan, Ga.

The family suggests tributes to the Wesley Woods Memorial Fund, Newnan, Ga., or the Martha Fuller Sunday school class of Newnan First United Methodist Church, where he was a member.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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