Robert G. (Gilmour) LeTourneau (1888-1969) was a Christian industrialist who had dedicated himself to being “a businessman for God.” Though his mother and father were Christians, LeTourneau resisted the gospel until the age of 16, when his parents’ prayers prevailed, and he chose to follow Christ. Since the age of 14, LeTourneau traveled to different parts of the United States, taking apprentice jobs in metal working, machining, and electrical work—learning as he went. He also studied mechanics through a correspondence course. More moves and new jobs brought experience in welding, woodcutting, carpentry, mining, and vehicle mechanics.
All this, along with LeTourneau’s ingenuity, culminated in a lucrative manufacturing business and many new designs of earthmoving vehicles. The imagination with which LeTourneau pursued his love for designing new machines is often recalled by others as having transcended that of “ordinary men”. He had hundreds of patents during his lifetime. He was the maker of almost 300 inventions. He introduced the rubber tire into the earth-moving industry, invented and developed the Electric Wheel, pioneered the welding of several metals, and built large mobile offshore drilling platforms. He even made cranes to move crashed fighters and bombers on aircraft carriers and on land. LeTourneau’s machines accounted for nearly three quarters of the earthmoving machines during WWII.
During his growing success, LeTourneau’s dedication to the Lord did not wane. The fire that drove him creatively in industry also compelled him in evangelism and discipleship. He travelled the world as both businessman and Christian witness. He employed three full-time chaplains and established regular chapel services in his manufacturing plants. LeTourneau and his wife, Evelyn also founded what is now known as LeTourneau University (www.letu.edu). LeTourneau also founded and funded missionary ministries in Liberia, West Africa and Peru, South America.