Mentor of handymen

Alonzo G. Decker Jr.: Towson tool manufacturer saw the potential of America's do-it-yourself craze.

March 20, 2002

HIS FATHER WAS co-founder of the company, but that didn't save Alonzo G. Decker Jr. from being laid off during the Great Depression. Good thing he was quickly hired back, because he went on to build the Towson-based Black & Decker Corp. into the world's largest power-tool maker.

Mr. Decker, who died Monday at 94, did more than that. He revolutionized lifestyles throughout the world.

His 1961 introduction of a cordless, battery-powered drill was a godsend for millions whose post-war suburban houses were starting to need repairs. As an invention, it was as epochal as Black & Decker's 1917 portable half-inch electric drill, which was such a milestone that it's in the Smithsonian.

Since the 1960s, a bewildering range of other cordless tools has streamed from Black & Decker and its competitors. They have spawned new industries, leading to the opening of such home improvement chains as Home Depot and Lowe's.

The popularity of cordless tools also generated a variety of hobbyist television programming -- from This Old House to the Home & Garden Television channel.

Thirteen months ago, when Mr. Decker retired, Black & Decker for the first time since its 1910 founding was without a Decker.

Truly, he is a figure gone but not forgotten, as his tools continue to be used by millions of do-it-yourselfers around the globe.

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