BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : APRIL 12, 1999 ISSUE
COVER STORY

Edward E. Whitacre Jr.


BORN
Nov. 4, 1941.

CHILDHOOD
The son of a railroad engineer, Whitacre grew up trapping frogs and shooting rabbits with his shotgun in the fields of Ennis, Tex., a small railroad town about 40 miles south of Dallas. In high school, he played first base on the baseball team and defensive end on the football squad. Most classmates thought the well-liked teenager was headed for railroad work or middle management. ''I would never in a million years have thought that he would have gone on to do such big things,'' says a childhood friend.

LIFE-CHANGING MOMENT
The summer after his junior year in college, Whitacre applied for a job with Southwestern Bell in Dallas. When the manager said there were no openings, Whitacre refused to leave. ''I need a job real bad,'' he said, offering to do anything. The manager gave him a position hammering in fence posts and measuring telephone wire.

COLLEGE
The first in his family to go to college, Whitacre graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in industrial engineering in 1964.

WHY HE DOESN'T DO E-MAIL
Whitacre doesn't have a computer in his office. He prefers to write notes by hand or have letters typed by his secretary. ''I'm not computer illiterate, but I'm close. If two people are sitting 20 feet from each other and sending each other E-mails, I think that's ridiculous.''

HOBBIES
Although he didn't start until his mid-40s, Whitacre has become an avid golfer and has dropped his handicap to a respectable 12. Long off the tee, his major weakness is hitting out of sand traps.

RANCH LIFE
Whitacre's ranch in suburban San Antonio is rife with deer, two zebras, and rattlesnakes--which Whitacre casually kills by pinning them with a stick and crushing their heads. His favorite ranch activity is driving his Caterpillar tractor to move debris and dig holes. ''I've been known to run over trees and do stupid things, but I like to do that,'' he says.

HOME LIFE
Married for years to wife Linda. He wanted to see her so badly as a college student that he drove an old Ford 300 miles on weekends from Lubbock to Fort Worth. The couple has two grown daughters.

COOKING SKILLS
Whitacre has more heart in the kitchen than talent. He likes to cook breakfast for friends and colleagues, but they steer clear of his Bisquick biscuits. ''They're the worse damn biscuits you've ever had,'' says one friend.

READING
He just finished Blind Man's Bluff, the story of how daredevil American submariners took huge risks to help the U.S. win the cold war.



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