LOS ANGELES Milton J. Lampros, founder and retired president of Portland, Ore., distributor Lampros Steel Inc., who served more than six decades in the West Coast mill and service center industries, died May 21 following a prolonged battle with cancer, according to his son, Marcus Lampros. He was 81.
Milton Lampros was "a real people person and a superb salesman who was also as honest as they come," said Howard Hedinger, chairman and chief executive of Portland-based American Industries Inc., where Lampros was executive vice president of its American Steel division in the 1970s. "His customers became his friends."
Lampros, the son of Greek immigrants, worked early mornings at his fathers San Francisco waterfront diner and played high school football and basketball, said Marcus Lampros, an owner of Alliance Steel Distributors LLC, Vancouver, Wash.
Lampros once recalled in conversation that the neighborhoods of San Francisco where he grew up spawned more than their share of gifted athletes, including the DiMaggios, who made names for themselves in baseball, as well as the Mathis familyone of whom, Johnny, ultimately became a lot more famous as a singer than a record-setting track star.
In 1951, while on his way to answer a newspaper want ad for an insurance agency, Lampros took a wrong turn and ended up at Gilmore Steel Corp., where he became chauffeur to chief executive officer William Gilmore, eventually moving up through the company and relocating to Portland in 1959, his son Marcus said.
Lampros observed in 2004 that hed lived through a number of steel market cycles since he started in 1951, when warehouse-grade plate was selling at the mill for less than $93 per ton (amm.com, April 4, 2004). He recalled that it was big news in 1961 when a recently inaugurated President John F. Kennedy jawboned Roger M. Blough, then chairman of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp., into postponing a planned $6-per-ton spring price hike.
Hedinger, who called Lampros "my best friend for 55 years," told AMM that Lampros was instrumental in the purchase of seven Gilmore Steel distribution locations in 1979, with the remaining Portland steel mill becoming Oregon Steel Mills Inc., now part of Chicago-based Evraz Inc. North America. American Steel is now part of Los Angeles-based Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.
In 1983, Milton and Marcus Lampros formed Lampros Steel, eventually considered the largest independent distributor of wide-flange beams in the Pacific Northwest. Lampros Steel was acquired by Reliance Steel in 2011.
A memorial service is planned at the Portland Golf Club on June 16.