James E. Burke, a long-time Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Trustee and Trustee Emeritus, and the former Johnson & Johnson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, died last Friday at age 87.
Jim’s career at J&J spanned 37 years. He was named president in 1973, and chairman and chief executive officer in 1976, serving until he retired in 1989. His career probably is best remembered for his leadership of the company during the Tylenol poisonings of the 1980s.
In addition to his many contributions to the Foundation, where he ably served as a Trustee for more than a decade, he was the chairman and force behind our long-time grantee, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
In 2000 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, for his unique contributions in both the private and public sectors. And Forbes magazine also named him one of the 10 greatest CEOs of all time.
Upon his passing, Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey remembered Jim and his many contributions: “Jim Burke exemplified the very best in both business leadership and human nature. He made the tough decisions a leader needs to make, as seen most clearly in his honest and open handling of the Tylenol tampering. And he worked tirelessly to protect children and families through his leadership of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In both the business and non-profit worlds, Jim put people first. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–and the world–benefitted greatly from his effort and his integrity.”