Charles McCormick Obituary (1928 – 2022) – Baltimore, MD

CHARLES PERRY “Buzz” McCORMICK, JR., the former Chairman and CEO of Baltimore’s global flavor company, McCormick & Co., Inc., passed away on March 27th, 2022, at his home in Stuart, Florida, two shy months of his 94th birthday.

The current CEO of McCormick & Co., Lawrence Kurzius, described Buzz McCormick as “one of the most beloved and admired leaders in McCormick’s history.” Mr. Kurzius went on to say, “Today as we reflect on his life and contributions, we know that his legacy will live on. He has inspired many generations of McCormick leaders with his passion for people, focus on flavor and commitment to delivering shareholder value. “

Buzz was born on May 29th, 1928, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Charles Perry McCormick, Sr. and Marion Andrews Hinds. At his birth, a nurse in the hospital’s nursery nicknamed him “Buzz,” in honor of McCormick & Co.’s then famous “Bee Brand” product line. His father led McCormick & Company from 1932 up to his death, on June 16th, 1970. He always insisted that the employees call him by his nickname: “CP”

Buzz grew up in Baltimore’s Guilford neighborhood and graduated from Friends School, where he excelled on the Lacrosse field. He worked at McCormick & Co. During the summers, as a teen and went on to study Business Administration at both Johns Hopkins and Duke Universities, again, also playing Lacrosse at both universities. He continued to work part-time for the company. In 1949, Buzz joined the McCormick company full-time, increasing positions of responsibility, and was appointed McCormick’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in early 1987. He served as CEO from 1987 to 1992, while returning as Chairman of the Board in 1994, after the passing of CEO Bailey Thomas. Again in 1996, Buzz, as Chairman of the Board, was asked to also assume the role of CEO, when Gene Blattman retired, due to health reasons.

Remarkedly, under Buzz’s combined tenure as CEO, he grew the value of the company by four times. In a letter written to all McCormick employees in 1987, Buzz noted that the biggest thing he could accomplish as CEO was “to help all of our employees have a better life.” Buzz successfully navigated the Company through several pivotal periods in its history. In 1988, in order to focus McCormick on its core business, Buzz divested the Company’s real estate development arm, which allowed the company to invest in growth food-related initiatives and buy back shares, resulting in a significant increase in the Company’s stock price and value.

In the late 1990’s, Buzz once again rose to the occasion and was determined to win in the marketplace against the formation of a super competitor, the Australian conglomerate, Burns Philip & Co. True to his competitive nature and his desire to win in everything he did, Buzz was determined to meet the challenge head on. McCormick & Co. was able to win the “Spice Wars,” winning the battle for customers and shelf space at grocery stores. The Australian company’s stock price fell to $1.00, and they exited the spice industry. During this time, Buzz also revitalized the Company’s entire herbs and spices retail line, by freshening its graphic look to appeal to modern cooks, while also introducing the iconic signature plastic bottles, still seen on store shelves today.

During his tenure, Buzz was revered by employees and colleagues, for his warm personality and easy-going nature. Many employees during his time as CEO felt that they were working with Buzz, rather than working for him. When asked about his best quality, his younger brother John cited his keen ability to listen and to have a conversation with anyone. “If you talk to people at a large gathering, you have some people who pay attention to you and others who are always looking to see who’s coming in next. In contrast, Buzz always gave his full attention to everyone he met.”

When asked about his life, Buzz said that the two loves in his life were “his family and the McCormick employees.” Outside of McCormick & Co., he served on several Boards, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association Board, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the US Chamber of Commerce. He also served in several leadership positions for other industry and community organizations, as a Trustee of the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger, as a Founder and Director of the Columbia Bank & Trust Co., and as a member of the National Association of the Boys ‘ Clubs of America. He was a former President of the Flavor and Extracts Manufacturers Association (FEMA), and a member of the Food Manufacturing Educational Council (FMEC).

In his free time, Buzz was an avid Baltimore Ravens fan, and enjoyed racing sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay, as a competitive yachtsman for over 25 years. In March 1979, he was on the cover of Yachting Magazine, in his sailboat, the “WhamBam”, heeling on its side, with the sails in the water – an embarrassing knockdown that Buzz found very amusing. He twice won the High Point Trophy, for the best sailboat racer on the Chesapeake Bay. He was a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club, the Baltimore Country Club, the Palm Beach Yacht Club, the Sailfish Point Yacht Club, and a former President of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association.

Buzz was devoted to his family, including his four children by his late wife, Marlene Hicks McCormick: Charles, III (“Chip”), the late Chris McCormick (Mary Claire), Linda McCormick Bertazon (Lou), and Gail McCormick Lamb, plus multiple grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Buzz was preceded in death by his sister, Rosalie McCormick Beane Welsh, and survived by his two brothers, John McCormick (Wynne) and Rob McCormick (Barbara). He married Jimi Helen Faulk in 1980. She preceded him in death in 2013. Sheila Everhart McCormick has been his devoted companion, right up to the time of his death.

In 1999, he retired, for the second and final time, to Stuart, Florida, after 50 years of devoted service to McCormick & Co., Inc. “The Spice King is retiring again; Charles P. “Buzz” McCormick, Jr. is stepping down as Chairman of the spice company that bears his name,” wrote William Patalon, III, of the Baltimore Sun Newspaper, March 14, 1999.

One of Buzz’s favorite light-hearted retirement gifts to him was a set of business cards from his brother, John, reading: “Chairman of the Board of McCormick & Company and Commodore of the Sailfish Point Yacht Club.” Along the journey of his long life, he proudly attained one of his life-long goals. He shot his own age in golf in 2018, at the ripe old age of 90. Lawrence Kurzius, the current CEO of McCormick, summed it up, by saying, he was “one of the most beloved and admired leaders in McCormick’s history” and , “We know his legacy will live on.”

A celebration-of-life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that those desiring may make a contribution to a charity of their choice, or to the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger, of which he was a former trustee. Those wishing to leave a condolence note in the Guest Book may go to www.legacy.com/obituaries/baltimoresun/ and type in Charles Perry McCormick, Jr.

Published by Baltimore Sun on Apr. 10, 2022.

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