Our History

The Uncommon Friends Foundation was founded in 1993 to carry on the generational values that Fort Myers businessman Jim Newton wrote about in his famous book, Uncommon Friends. Jim Newton was a Fort Myers Beach entrepreneur and author. He was personal friends with five of the most notable people who defined the 20th Century ─ Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindburgh. Jim Newton called them his “uncommon friends,” and his book documents his experiences with them, with particular attention to the personal traits he believed set them apart ─ personal traits that the Uncommon Friends Foundation is committed to carrying forward in today’s culture.

Jim Newton, circa 1935

The Uncommon Friends

L to R: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.

About the Uncommon Friends

Thomas Alva Edison is undoubtedly the most famous inventor in American history. Edison designed, built and delivered the electrical age. He was the epitome of the self-made man. He was a poor boy who had only three months of formal schooling – yet achieved fame and fortune through hard work. Edison commented that, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” He was among the country’s few millionaires in the late 1800’s. Edison had a total of 1,093 patents, one for every 12 days of his adult life. On October 12, 1931, at the U. S. President’s request, the lights were turned off at 10:00 a.m. for two minutes all over the United States to honor his memory.

Henry Ford was a leading manufacturer of American automobiles in the early 1900’s. He established the Ford Motor Company, which revolutionized the automobile industry with its assembly line production methods. In 1914, he reduced the workday from nine to eight hours and introduced a profit-sharing plan. He had a nose for finance and devoted time and energy to many educational and charitable projects. He established both Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1936, Ford and his son Edsel established the Ford Foundation, the world’s largest foundation that provides grants for education, research and development. His genius was the ability to cut through complicated problems.

Harvey Firestone was the founder and president of the Firestone Tire Company, one of the country’s fastest growing tire companies. He was one of America’s best-known businessmen. The keys to his leadership were his ability to delegate responsibility and to know men. He used “consensus management” by getting opinions of his management staff and having them come to obvious decisions. He had a genius in choosing the right person for the right job. “My most valuable executives have picked themselves by their records; people prove themselves at lower levels,” Firestone said. He was one of the first in the country to offer company stock to his employees at reduced rates so that they could be part of the operation.

Dr. Alexis Carrel completed his formal medical education in 1900 at the University of Lyons in France. He moved to the United States in 1904 to work for what is now known as the Rockefeller Institute. Subsequent progress in surgery of the heart and blood vessels and in transplantation of organs has rested upon the foundation he laid down between 1904 and 1908. He received the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize in medicine and physiology for his work with blood vessel suturing and the transplantation of organs in animals. He and Charles Lindbergh collaborated to invent the perfusion pump for circulating culture fluid through an excised organ. His pioneering techniques paved the way for successful organ transplants and modern heart surgery, including grafting procedures and bypasses.

Charles A. Lindbergh is best known as the man who flew solo from New York City to Paris in 1927 and for the kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932, but he was a much more complex man. Between 1931 and 1935, he invented an “artificial heart” with Dr. Alexis Carrel. He worked for the U. S. government in obtaining military knowledge about Nazi Germany prior to World War II but was against the U. S. entering the war. He was regarded as the world’s foremost authority on aviation matters and his words carried much weight. When war was declared against Japan, Lindbergh flew about fifty combat missions as a volunteer and served as an advisor to the U. S. military. Pan American World Airways hired him as a consultant on jet transport purchases and he eventually helped design the Boeing 747. He received the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for his book, “The Spirit of St. Louis.” Between the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s, he became an active environmentalist. He turned down an invitation to the 40-year anniversary of his historic trans-Atlantic flight. Lindbergh died of cancer in 1974 at his home on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Author James D. Newton, in the afterward of his book entitled, “Uncommon Friends,” made the following comment:

“Knowing them did much to shape my life. Edison, who never gave up, but turned a thousand failures into triumph; Ford, with his imagination constantly grappling with new ideas; Firestone, who maintained a rocklike integrity amidst the shifting sands of business expediency; Carrel, who could lift you in a single conversation from the street to the stars; and Lindbergh, never content to pursue one great purpose, but constantly reaching for ever more challenging goals.”

James D. Newton March 30, 1905-December 13, 1999

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book, click here.

Uncommon Friends
by James D. Newton

Uncommon Friends Foundation

The Uncommon Friends Foundation inspires future leaders toward excellence of character, a spirit of innovation, and a sense of purpose.

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2505 First Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901



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