Charles R. “Dick” Plumb, who headed public relations for Rockwell International’s automotive unit for more than two decades, died peacefully at his home in South Carolina on May 8. He was 97.
Early in his career, Plumb worked as a reporter and editor for several small daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, including The Michigan Daily, Huron County Tribune and South Macomb News. He then joined the Detroit Free Press, where he held various editorial roles, including copy editor and makeup editor.
In 1963, Plumb joined Automotive News as a staff reporter and editor. He later served as director of marketing for the publication.
Plumb transitioned to corporate communications in 1969 when he was hired by Rockwell International and found his true professional calling. He eventually became director of communications for Rockwell’s light vehicle components business (subsequently purchased by Meritor, which now is being acquired by Cummins).
Plumb was the consummate, old school PR guy known for his memorable press trips — including annual Indy 500 outings — and building long-lasting relationships with journalists, many of whom became lifelong friends.
“I first met Dick when he was a staffer at Automotive News and I was business editor of the Free Press sometime during the 1960s. Not long after Dick made the leap to PR with Rockwell, which is where I got to know him well.” said longtime Detroit automotive journalist Dave Smith. “I always thought he was among the best among the scores of automotive PR folks I worked with: smart, enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable and a gentleman who never strayed too far from his journalism roots.”
Plumb was born in Yates Center, Kan., in 1924. He met his future wife Juanita in high school, where they played the romantic leads in a school play and worked on the school newspaper together. They celebrated their 76th anniversary last year.
After starting college at the University of Kansas, Plumb enlisted in the U.S. Navy as part of the V-12 College Training program during World War II. After the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
In addition to Juanita, Plumb is survived by children Chris (Torres), Rick, Kim (Cahill) and Steve; sons-in-law Mark Torres and Bob Cahill; and grandchildren Laura, Evan, Danielle and Addison.