Olin B. King
Father of Electronic Contract Manufacturing
Inducted in 2011
Olin B. King is the founder and former chairman of SCI Systems Inc., of Huntsville, Ala. A 1953 graduate of North Georgia College and State University, King started a business, which later became known as SCI, with two friends in the basement of his home in 1961. The company, which originated with the goal of designing and building satellites, quickly became a major subcontractor for NASA’s Saturn Apollo Lunar Landing Program and several missile and launch vehicle systems.
During the Vietnam War, SCI made subsystems for military aircraft, which were later applied to commercial aircraft. SCI began making computer terminals for IBM in 1976 and personal computers for IBM and other large companies in 1981. King and his company designed and built electronics for the Voyager spacecraft, which remains an operative pioneer in outer space today. Launched in 1977, Voyager is the farthest man-made object from Earth and still provides continuous research data.
At one time, SCI was Huntsville’s largest private employer and one of the state’s largest employers. It grew under King to operate 51 facilities in 19 countries with 31,500 employees worldwide. The company became a Fortune 300 enterprise with hundreds of customers in the computer, telecommunications, medical and defense industries.
Prior to King’s retirement from SCI, the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and had annual revenues of more than $8 billion. Since his retirement, he has remained active in the development of industrial facilities in the Huntsville area.
Before forming SCI, King served his country during the Korean War as an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He began his professional career as an engineer with RCA and later joined the Army’s ballistic missile program. He arrived in Huntsville in 1957 and began building satellites and missiles in association with Wernher von Braun.
In addition to founding SCI, King has been active in other business ventures, including directorships at Regions Financial Corp., Interfinancial, Abbott Medical Electronics Co., Baker Automation Systems and Deltacom. King has also participated in many civic activities, including the Research Park Board of the city of Huntsville, the Huntsville Museum of Art and the Huntsville Symphony. He was a founding director of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation.
In 1984, he was named Executive of the Year by the National Management Association. Until his retirement, he served as a trustee of The University of Alabama System and board member of the UAB Health System. King was elected to the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1988. In 1998, he was selected as Alabama’s Chief Executive Officer of the Year by the Birmingham News and was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 2000. He has received honorary doctorates from the university systems of Alabama, Georgia and South Dakota.
King is an inventor, holder of several patents and author of numerous business and engineering articles.
King is married to the former Shelbie Abbott, and they are the parents of two sons and two daughters and grandparents of six.