Mr. Flint: The Man, The Myth, The Legendary Philanthropist

Recently I wrote about the Flint water crises, and how the Mott foundation did their part to help the people of Flint and the community overall. A book was just published titled, “The Life of Charles Stewart Mott: Industrialist, Philanthropist, Mr. Flint”, by author Edward Renehan. It goes through Mott’s many public service works and projects.
Charles Stewart Mott was known as “Mr. Flint” and he could also be known as “Mr. General Motors”. He was born in 1875, and became extremely wealthy through the automobile giant and amongst other ventures, but he was also extremely generous. An industrialist, who was just shy of his 97th birthday, was re-elected to the board of directors of GM. He was a man of many talents and dabbled in several industries, including his purchase of U.S. Sugar in 1931 and where he began his career at the family business.

He also had a great sense of humor. When asked about his roots, he explained that he was born of “poor but honest …simple sod-busters”. In modern day English, they were honest farmers. What these farmers planted and harvested was apples. And their name was Mott. Somehow, I don’t think they were poor.

The Mott family also manufactured wire wheels for bicycles, and in 1903, supplied auto wheels to the Buick Motor Company located in Flint, Michigan. In 1913, he became a member of the General Motors board of directors for the first time, and throughout his life, was the Mayor of Flint two terms over. He was always charitable, even raising funds for the Allied troops during WWI.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation was created in 1926 and he spent the rest of his life helping and building through his foundation, which has since its inception, given grants that easily total over $3 billion. He helped build the largest corporation in his era, now known as General Motors, and lived a long productive life of giving back to the community.

He donated the land that he used to farm along with his farmhouse and endowed the University of Michigan-Flint on his 75th birthday. He wrote “I used to look out of my window and see six cows…now I look out and see 7000 students, I think I made a very good exchange.” I agree, and suggest, that Charles Stewart Mott could also be known as “Mr. Philanthropy “. After all that he has done, that seems very fitting.

About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU, a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.