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‘True blue’ Nucor engineer Doherty dies at 91

Keywords: Tags  Nucor, John A. Doherty, engineer, mill architect, John Ferriola, Keith Busse, John Correnti, obituary

CHICAGO — John A. Doherty, an inventor and entrepreneur who helped develop Nucor Corp. into one of North America’s largest steelmakers, died April 5. He was 91.

After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, Doherty attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Navy for three years before joining Eastern Stainless Steel, Baltimore, in 1947 as a draftsman and design engineer.

He left Eastern Stainless in 1948 to work for Perini Corp., Framingham, Mass., but in 1963 returned to Eastern Stainless as a production engineer, designing the first interchangeable electric furnace shell, which later became standard equipment in Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor’s melt shops.

Doherty teamed up with F. Kenneth Iverson in 1968 to build Eastern Carolina Steel, where he designed a reheat furnace, a ladle transfer car and a new plant layout. Doherty then moved to Norfolk, Neb., to design and build a larger mill. North East Nebraska Steel was built in 1973 and started melting in 1974. About this time, the company changed all its facility names to Nucor, and promoted Doherty to vice president and general manager.

Over his career, Doherty doubled the size of the Norfolk plant, and also designed and laid out expansions at Nucor’s plants in Jewett, Texas; Plymouth, Utah; and Crawfordsville, Ind.; and at Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. in Blytheville, Ark.

Doherty left his post as mill general manager in 1995 to become vice president of engineering and consulting before retiring in 1997.

Doherty "was a true engineer’s engineer," Nucor president and chief executive officer John Ferriola said. "No one had such an innate ability to understand mechanical engineering as it applies to steelmaking. He built the mill in Nebraska, virtually built Darlington (S.C.) and ran Nebraska for over 20 years."

Ferriola said Doherty "was a true architect for Nucor as a steel producer. He will be missed."

"He did a lot of work on Crawfordsville and was a great guy," Keith Busse, former Nucor executive and co-founder and chairman of Steel Dynamics Inc., told AMM. "He was like a growly bear but had a big heart. He was 100-percent true-blue Nucor; he was about what was best for the company and best for his employees. He was fearless and never let up on the gas."

Former Nucor chief executive officer John D. Correnti called Doherty "one of the originals. He came across like a rough-and-tumble Irishman but had a heart as wide as Texas. He was a very nice man who took care of people. He would almost crush your hand with his handshake. He was a class act, a man of his word."

Doherty is survived by his wife of 64 years, Eileen; five children; 11 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held April 9 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Norfolk, Neb.

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