JOPLIN, Mo. — Area businessman and philanthropist, Harry M. Cornell Jr., is not only being mourned, but remembered tonight by family, friends and community leaders.

The 93-year-old, who was recently named “Joplin’s Citizen of the Year” by the Chamber of Commerce, passed away on Sunday (5/8) at his home in Joplin.

Harry M. Cornell, Jr., former Chairman and later, Honorary Chairman of Leggett & Platt, Incorporated, is known for many things during his lifetime.

Harry Cornell: A Lifetime of Accomplishments

One of Cornell’s biggest accomplishments: Transforming a small regional company, founded in 1883, into a Fortune 500 manufacturing giant that’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

As the grandson of the founder of Leggett and Platt, Cornell Jr. joined the company’s sales department in 1950 and advanced through the ranks.

Clifford Wert, a long-time friend of Cornell and Treasurer of the Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex, said Harry Cornell Jr. excelled as a Plant Manager at the Leggett and Platt facility in Ennis, Texas.

Wert said it was Cornell’s leadership skills that eventually led him to become president and chief executive officer of the company in 1960.

During the next 52 years, Cornell worked hard to transform Leggett and Platt from five plants and $7 million in annual sales, to a $4 billion company with 130 plants in 18 countries.

Cornell and his wife’s major donations across the area helped with many projects bearing his name, including the Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex, currently under construction in downtown Joplin.

Donations made by Cornell Jr. would also fund the Harry M. Cornell Medical Education Center, the Harry M. Cornell Dental Education Center (Kansas City University’s Joplin campus) and the Cornell-Beshore Cancer Institute at Freeman Health System.

Remembering A Man Who “Had Remarkable Passion For The Region”

Several area businesses, organizations and personal friends of Harry M. Cornell Jr., issued statements today regarding his passing and the many projects he helped bring to life.

Harry M. Cornell Jr. (pictured above) passed away at the age of 93 on Sunday (5/8). Cornell Jr., who was once Chairman of Leggett & Platt Inc., transformed the company into a Fortune 500 giant.

“The Freeman Health System Family joins with the countless Joplin area friends of Harry Cornell in expressing their loss at his death.  As everyone knows, Mr. Cornell’s generosity has profoundly and positively impacted not only the Freeman Family, but so many, many area organizations and institutions.  Mr. Cornell’s provision for the Cornell-Beshore Cancer Institute has, and will continue for many generations, to enable untold numbers of patients to receive exceptional care in their fight against cancer.  He has left a lovely legacy in his wake that will especially benefit this part of the country well into the future. Harry Cornell will be greatly missed and long remembered.”

Paula Baker, CEO – Freeman Health System

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Harry M. Cornell, who was recently named the 2022 Citizen of the Year. We appreciate Mr. Cornell’s passion for the region through his support of many community projects and his success in growing Leggett & Platt from a small local business into a Fortune 500 company. His impact on our community has been significant and his legacy will continue to influence Joplin for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones at this time.”

Erin Slifka, Marketing and Communications Manager – Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

“As a businessman, he demonstrated his prowess by taking this private company of Leggett and Platt to Fortune, you know, to a New York Stock Exchange traded company, with offices and manufacturing literally nationwide and worldwide. So, is palaces, this one that we all are amazed with what he was able to accomplish. Yeah, and with accomplishing so much.”

Clifford Wert, Treasurer – Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex
An architectural rendering of the “Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex,” which is currently under construction and located in front of Joplin’s Memorial Hall.

“Accessibility to the arts and cultural experiences in a community is an important asset to create a better quality of life, support economic development, and provide educational opportunity for our children and our citizens. I am confident that this gift will have an impact on making the arts more accessible. I encourage other individuals and business leaders in our area to step forward to answer the call for support.”

Harry M. Cornell Jr.

Funeral arrangements for Harry Mack Cornell Jr. are currently pending. We’ll have those plans listed here on, as soon as they’re made available.