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Douglas M Walker – an obituary

John Deere Limited is sad to announce that Douglas M Walker, the company’s longest serving managing director from 1968 to 1993, has died at the age of 87.

dougla m walker

Douglas M Walker: John Deere MD 1968-1993

John Deere Limited is sad to announce that Douglas M Walker, the company’s longest serving managing director from 1968 to 1993, has died at the age of 87, on Sunday 8 November. The funeral was held in Nottinghamshire on Wednesday 18 November at Bramcote Crematorium.

A graduate of the Edinburgh School of Agriculture, Doug Walker was a key figure in John Deere Limited’s establishment and growth in the UK and Ireland after the company started trading from its present day headquarters at Langar, near Nottingham, in January 1966. The 25 years under his leadership saw the development of a strong, dedicated dealer organisation and prominent market position for the business.

He became John Deere Limited’s first employee as territory manager for Scotland and after three months became the company’s first sales manager. He was appointed managing director in October 1968, a position he held until his retirement 25 years later on 4 February 1993, after 27 years of service with the company. During that period the business grew from a turnover of £3 million to £120 million and the agricultural dealer organisation expanded from 11 to 132 outlets.

Doug Walker also oversaw the introduction of high horsepower tractors into the UK market in the late 1960s, when the average farm tractor was in the 50hp class; the John Deere product range in 1966 included the classic 91hp 4020, the first tractor to appear on the UK market with a powershift transmission. In recognition of this contribution to increased farm efficiency and lower costs, he was appointed an associate of the Royal Agricultural Societies in 1992.

Among a host of industry achievements and trade related posts held at various times during his career (see note to editor below), Doug Walker was a past president of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE), served twice as president of the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) in the 1970s and 1980s, was chairman of the Royal Smithfield Show Joint Committee and president of the Motor and Allied Trades Benevolent Fund (BEN), the charity for those who work in the automotive and related industries.

Born on 4 February 1928 in Edinburgh, Doug Walker was educated at the George Heriot School in Edinburgh before gaining his NDA at the Edinburgh School of Agriculture. He originally wanted to be either a vet or a farmer, but ended up developing an interest in agricultural machinery. For a short while after graduating he lectured in the subject at the then Lancashire Farm Institute, where he set up the machinery department.

Two years later, on getting married (to Helen) on 18 August 1951, he moved to the relatively new Shuttleworth College in Bedfordshire, again as its first agricultural engineering lecturer in the new department that he also established. Three years later he moved to David Brown Tractors, initially as chief instructor. After seven years of moving through many departments, including sales promotion, he finished as assistant export sales manager before taking up his first appointment at John Deere Limited.

“I had the privilege to work with Doug Walker in various roles from 1975 until his retirement in 1993, reporting directly to him for much of that time,” says current John Deere Limited managing director Antony Scott. “He was a strong business leader, with the skill and determination to take John Deere from the position of a new market entrant to market leadership during his tenure as managing director.

“He was highly respected in the industry, taught me a great deal over the years and will leave a strong and lasting legacy. He will be sadly missed by family, friends and former colleagues alike.”

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