Founding Fathers - Allison


My take on James Ashbury Allison is he was a no-nonsense guy. There's nothing I can point to as it is simply my intuition developed through reading a number of articles and books that describe his role in various scenarios, primarily with Prest-O-Lite, the founding of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the founding of Allison Engineering and his decision late in life to leave his wife of over 20 years to marry his secretary.
Allison is described as the yin to Carl Fisher's yang as in the founding of Prest-O-Lite in Al Bloemker's book "500 Miles to Go." One situation that stuck with me was when Fisher stumbled across Percy Avery who had purchased the French patent for a compressed gas canister. Fisher saw the potential to "productize" the technology into the world's first viable headlight. Skeptical, Allison reserved judgment. In an amazing story that says something about the era, Allison took a canister fully charged with explosive acetylene gas and dashed it against rocks below Indianapolis' Washington Street Bridge. When it didn't blow up, Allison decided he could put his money into captializing a business to introduce headlights. The two men were destined to make millions.
I believe Fisher and Allison worked magic for a number of years. Fisher spewed ideas and Allison tempered his enthusiasm by asking good questions before they jumped. Apparently, they both understood that they balanced each other. I imagine Allison as a stoic guy who probably made his underlings nervous with a stoney stare. I bet it took a lot to impress him.
I also think that he respected Fisher for his vision and energy. Allison may have been the check and balance to Fisher's kinetic mind, but he was clearly influenced by his more dynamic partner. When Fisher went crazy developing Miami Beach, Allison followed him there, investing in personal property as well as an aquarium and a hospital. While he must have lost a bundle after the 1926 hurricane destroyed property and confidence to erase a lot of property value, Allison did a better job of holding onto his money simply because he wasn't addicted to charging headlong into the next thing like Fisher.
He was an engineer and from that my takeaway is that he was more of a calculating, left  brain intellect. He formed the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company that became Allison Engineering (Allison Transmission traces its lineage back to this early 20th Century company). All of this says to me he was more likely than Fisher to apply numbers and logic to his decision process. The departure for the two men - at least in business investments - seemed to come with Fisher's leap to developing the Montauk community in New York.
The bottom line? I see Allison and Fisher far and away the closest among the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They were a great team that recognized they were greater than the sum of their parts. Unfortunately, like many biographies, in their final years things began to unravel. Fisher's alcoholism and adrenaline junkie risk taking took his empire down. And Allison, although more tempered, possessed common human weaknesses as when he left Sarah, his wife of 21 years, to marry his former secretary, Louise Mussett in 1928. In a sad twist of fate he contracted pneumonia in the following week and passed away just a week short of his 56th birthday.