Josiah Kirby “Joe” Lilly Jr. (September 25, 1893 – May 5, 1966) was a businessman and industrialist who served as president (1948 –53) and chairman of the board (1953–66) of Eli Lilly and Company, the pharmaceutical firm his grandfather, Colonel Eli Lilly, founded in Indianapolis in 1876. Lilly, the younger son and namesake of Josiah K. Lilly Sr., graduated from the University of Michigan‘s School of Pharmacy in 1914 where he was a member of the Chi Psi Fraternity. He served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. At Eli Lilly and Company, where his primary focus was marketing and human resources, he served as vice president of marketing, executive vice president of the company, and president of Eli Lilly International Corporation, before succeeded his older brother, Eli Jr., as company president in 1948 and as chairman of the board in 1953.
During Lilly’s five decades with the firm, it grew into one of the largest and most influential pharmaceutical corporations in the world, and the largest corporation in Indiana. Lilly helped improve the company’s business processes to increase its efficiency, laid the groundwork for its personnel guidelines, and formed its sales research department. He was the last Lilly family member to serve as company president. Lilly was also a philanthropist, as well as a collector. In 1937 Joe, his brother, and their father, founded the Lilly Endowment, which remains as one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. Lilly was also known for his significant collection of rare books and manuscripts, which he donated to Indiana University to form the core collection of the Lilly Library, located on the IU campus in Bloomington, Indiana. Oldfields, Lilly’s estate home and grounds in Indianapolis, are part of the present-day Newfields. The Smithsonian Institution acquired Lilly’s gold coin collection. Cape Cod‘s Heritage Museums and Gardens was established in his honor in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and holds some of Lilly’s other collections.
Josiah Kirby Lilly Jr., known as “Joe” among friends and family, was the younger son of Josiah K. Lilly Sr. and Lilly (née Ridgley) Lilly. He was born at the family’s home on North Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, on September 25, 1893. His only sibling, Eli Jr., was eight years older. Joe’s mother suffered from pernicious anemia and died in 1934; his father died in 1948.
Lilly was the grandson of ColonelEli Lilly, who founded Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical manufacturing business in Indianapolis in 1876. Joe’s father was superintendent of the Lilly laboratory at the time of Joe’s birth and succeeded Colonel Lilly as president of the company in 1898. Joe and Eli followed their father into the family business. Each son served as company president and chairman of the board, but Joe was the last family member to serve as its president.
Lilly attended the Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and graduated from The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in 1912. He continued his education with a two-year course at the University of Michigan‘s School of Pharmacy, which he completed in 1914, before returning to Indianapolis to join the family business.
Joe married Ruth Marie Brinkmeyer of Indianapolis on October 15, 1914. The couple had two children, Ruth (1915–2009) and Josiah (Joe) III (1916–1995). Lilly’s daughter became a philanthropist. His son joined the family business in 1939 and became superintendent of its Kentucky Avenue plant after serving in the military during World War II; however, he resigned from the company in 1948 and did not succeed his father as president. In 1954, after briefly serving as secretary of the Lilly Endowment, Josiah III resigned and moved to New England.
In December 1932 Lilly purchased Oldfields, a French chateau-style home with landscaped gardens, from Hugh McKennan Landon, an Indianapolis businessman. Lewis Ketcham Davis designed the home, which was built circa 1909–13; Percival Gallagher, an associate of the Olmsted Brothers, designed its gardens. Lilly and his wife, Ruth, maintained the home as their primary residence. Oldfields and its landscaped grounds were donated to the Art Association of Indianapolis in 1967 and became a part the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
In 1934 Lilly began acquiring additional land along Eagle Creek in Marion County’s Pike Township, northwest of downtown Indianapolis, to create Eagle Crest, a private retreat on 3,469 acres (1,404 hectares) of land. The secluded property included an operating farm and timberland, as well as a nature preserve. In 1936 Lilly moved his collection of rare books and manuscripts from his home to the library he had built on the property, which also included a lodge. Lilly donated the property to Purdue University in 1958. The Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation acquired Eagle Crest from the university in 1966 to establish Eagle Creek Park and Nature Preserve.
In 1955 Lilly acquired the Indianapolis home of Lyman S. Ayres II, the grandson of Lyman S. Ayres, who founded the L. S. Ayres and Company department stores. Ayres had the Colonial-style home on Kessler Boulevard, West Drive, built in 1941. The Lilly family purchase adjoining property to expand the estate, known as Twin Oaks, to 22 acres (8.9 hectares). Lilly’s daughter, Ruth, lived there until her death in 2009, and it remains privately owned. He also maintained a summer home, called Red Oaks, at Falmouth, Massachusetts.