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patrick henry norton

Furniture industry pioneer Patrick H. Norton (b. 1922 d. 2008) was 17 years old when he got a job loading furniture onto trucks at a department store in St. Louis. In 1940, he joined the Army Air Corps, serving for five years during World War II. During 1961, he became a sales representative and subsequently joined manufacturer Baumritter & Co., which later became Ethan Allen. He moved up the corporate ladder and was named vice president of sales. In the 1960s, he and Nat Ancell pioneered the industry's first chain of stores dedicated to a single brand, Ethan Allen. The single-brand store was a novel concept in those days and many companies have learned from and followed this concept.

In 1981, Mr. Norton left Ethan Allen to join La-Z-Boy as senior vice president of sales and marketing. He was named chairman of the board in 1997. He retired as chairman of La-Z-Boy in 2006 at the age of 84 and remained chairman emeritus until his death.

Norton was instrumental in the company's evolution from a chair specialist into a whole-home resource and in establishing its distribution system and store network. La-Z-Boy's sales grew from $156 million in 1980 to peak at just under $2.3 billion in 2001. He is widely credited with transforming the company by building its brand, widening its product offering and distribution system and establishing the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries® store system.

An avid industry supporter, Norton served on the board of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and on the liaison committee with the National Home Furnishings Association. As the first Home Furnishings Council chairman, he worked to unite retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. His honors included the Distinguished Service Award from the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, the National Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, as well as the Spirit of Life Award from the City of Hope. Norton received an honorary doctorate from High Point University where, in 2000, the school named its Furniture Studies Hall, Norton Hall. Additionally, in 1992, members of the La-Z-Boy "extended family," including sales representatives and dealers, established, in his honor, the Patrick H. Norton Scholarship Fund at the University.

Mr. Norton was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 1995.