Ralph E. Bailey is a distinguished veteran of the coal industry. The former Chairman and CEO of Conoco, Mr. Bailey helped mastermind the largest corporate merger of its day when Conoco was acquired by DuPont in 1981. He is regarded not only for his impressive accomplishments as an executive, but also for his staunch commitment to safety, engineering, and improving mine operations.
Born in Indiana on March 23, 1924, Mr. Bailey married Bettye J. Holder of Elberfeld, Indiana in 1945. He graduated from Purdue University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1949 and joined Peabody Coal Company (formerly Northern Illinois Coal Corporation) as an engineer in 1949, eventually becoming Executive Vice President in 1964. While at Peabody, his leadership and creativity paved the way for a new generation of giant shovels and draglines.
In 1965 he joined Consolidation Coal Company (Consol) as Vice President, and became its President and Chief Executive Officer in 1975. During his tenure at Consol, Mr. Bailey was responsible for implementing many effective new concepts, including the first longwall system to operate in eastern bituminous coal at the Shoemaker Mine in 1973. Longwall mining was an important advancement in underground mine productivity and is now the standard for efficient underground mining. Mr. Bailey’s namesake, the Bailey Mine, and its nearby sister mine, Enlow Fork, in southwestern Pennsylvania are among the more productive and higher volume underground coal mines in the United States.
Mr. Bailey championed a grass-roots program at Consol to greatly improve the health and safety of both underground and surface miners. The dramatic results achieved stimulated industry efforts to do the same. Lost time accidents, serious injuries and fatalities were all greatly reduced; and fires, floods and explosions were virtually eliminated in most mines. Consol’s “Ralph E. Bailey Safety Trophy,” awarded to operations that worked a million man-hours without a lost time accident, is a continuing reminder of Mr. Bailey’s commitment to the safety of his miners.
Consol was acquired by Continental Oil Company (Conoco) in 1966. Mr. Bailey was named Vice Chairman and a Director of the parent company, and became Conoco’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1979. He led Conoco in 1981 when it was acquired by E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. for $7 billion, the largest corporate acquisition of its time.
Mr. Bailey retired from his executive positions at DuPont and Conoco in 1987. During his career, he was the President of the American Mining Congress (AMC) and received AMC’s Distinguished Service Award for his industry contributions. He also served as Chairman of the National Petroleum Council, Chairman of the Environmental Task Force of the Business Roundtable, and Director of the American Petroleum Institute. Purdue University awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Engineering in 1979.