McNamara was born on 9 June 1916 in San Francisco, where his father was sales manager of a wholesale shoe firm. He graduated in 1937 from the University of California (Berkeley) with a degree in economics and philosophy, earned a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Admin-istration in 1939, worked a year for the accounting firm of Price, Waterhouse in San Francisco, and then in August 1940 returned to Harvard to teach in the business school. He entered the Army Air Forces as a captain in early 1943 and left active duty three years later with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1946 McNamara joined Ford Motor Company as manager of planning and financial analysis. He advanced rapidly through a series of top-level management positions to the presidency of Ford on 9 November 1960one day after Kennedy's election. The first company head selected outside the Ford family, McNamara received substantial credit for Ford's expansion and success in the postwar period. Less than five weeks after becoming president at Ford, he accepted Kennedy's invitation to join his cabinet.more » « less