Ray Jordan, an innovator at J.C. Penney, died earlier this week at the age of 98. Having worked his way up through the ranks to the position of executive vice president — once spending nights in an Oklahoma store armed with a shotgun to ward off robbers — Jordan helped J.C. Penney step into the catalog business by buying a small but highly automated mail-order firm in Milwaukee.
Issuing its first catalog in 1963, the new division edged into profitability in 1971, one year ahead of plan. Eight years later, J.C. Penney became the second largest marketer of catalog merchandise. And in 1993, J.C. Penney became the No. 1 catalog merchandiser.