John R. Lindahl Sr., 84, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of State Industries, Ashland City, TN, died July 5. He was born in 1922 in Malvern, AR. His family later relocated to Nashville, where his father, H.W. Lindahl Sr., started an appliance distribution business.
John R. Lindahl Sr. served as a bomber pilot in the Army Air Force during World War II, flying 64 missions over Africa and Europe. When he returned, he started his own business, making coal-fired stoves in a Nashville garage, with capital provided by his father. The company was established as State Stove and Manufacturing Co. in 1946.
In 1948, State changed its focus to production of electric water heaters. Gas water heaters were added to the mix in 1954. The company was incorporated in 1955, at which time John Lindahl Sr. became president and his brother, Herb Lindahl, was named vice president.
The company relocated its plant to Ashland City, TN, in the early 1960s and changed its name to State Industries in 1974. State grew to become one of the world's largest manufacturers of residential and commercial water heaters and water system tanks.
In 1991, John R. Lindahl Sr. started the Lindahl Foundation Scholarship Program, launched with his personal funds. The program targeted children of State employees but was also open to any student within a 41-county area in middle Tennessee seeking to continue his or her education beyond high school.
SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES named John R. Lindahl Sr. to its PHCP Industry Hall of Fame in 1993. He was recognized for his “hands-on, face-to-face style,” his “passion for people,” his “openness to the insights and ideas of others” and “a restless and inventive mind always on the prowl for ways to enhance his business, no matter their source.”
John R. Lindahl Sr. was honored in September 1999 with an entry in the Library of Congress when Representative Ed Bryant of Tennessee addressed the House of Representatives to speak of Lindahl's achievements upon his retirement as chairman of State Industries.
“Well-known for his devotion to his employees, service and building strong relationships with customers, John Lindahl Sr. is proof that the American dream is possible through commitment, loyalty and faith,” Bryant said.
“John R. Lindahl was a pioneer and an icon in the water heater industry,” said Ajita Rajendra, president of A. O. Smith Water Products Co. “We have all lost a good friend and role model, and I know I speak for the entire A. O. Smith family when I say he will be missed.”