William J. Smith Sr., chairman and CEO of DS Containers, Batavia, Illinois, died at his home in Mantoloking, New Jersey, on June 24, 2008, at the age of 81. He was a veteran of more than 50 years in the packaging industry and an advocate for the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy. He was also a veteran of World War II, having served in the U.S. Navy.
Following graduation from Syracuse University in 1950, he began a long career with American Can Company, then the nation's largest packaging corporation. After holding a number of manufacturing and financial positions, he became executive vice president and division president of American Can's billion dollar paper operation.
Taking early retirement in 1982, he led an investor group in the leveraged buyout of Sherwin-Williams Company's container business, re-naming it United Stated Can Company. As CEO, he grew U.S. Can from $100 million to $800 million in annual sales, capturing over half the North American market for aerosol containers, taking the company public and establishing a presence in the European market.
In 1998, he retired again and became an advisor to Japan's Daiwa Can Company, where he led the development of a two-piece steel aerosol can. In 2004, in partnership with Daiwa, he presided over and actively managed the company's first U.S. venture, DS Containers, which introduced the new container to the American market.
A recognized authority in the field of productivity and a prolific speaker, he maintained that a healthy manufacturing sector is critical to the long-term well-being of the United States. In numerous appearances before business and academic audiences, he urged that America retain its ability to make things.
Over the course of his lengthy career in packaging, he completed Harvard's Advanced Management Program, was an advisor to the College of Engineering at Michigan State University and a trustee at Syracuse University.
He is survived by his wife, Dolores, and their five children.