LOS ANGELES - Joel Murray, 69, one-time chairman of Simmons Airlines, a Marquette County-based regional air carrier, died Oct. 25 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Murray -who worked at various times as a lawyer, businessman and a musical theater producer - was born in the Bronx, New York, on May 17, 1940.
As an entrepreneur, Murray pursued a variety of business ventures. In the 1980s he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Simmons.
The airline, which began as a one-man, one-plane operation flying out of the old Marquette County Airport in Negaunee Township in 1978, grew to a regional carrier with connections to Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. Over the years, Simmons Airlines operated as American Eagle, Republic Express and Northwest Airlink, connecting passengers with major airlines around the Midwest.
In 1988, Simmons was acquired by AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines. It eventually merged with four other regional airlines and now operates solely as American Eagle.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Murray attended the University of Wisconsin on a collegiate boxing scholarship and received his bachelor's and law degrees from Wisconsin. He subsequently attended Northwestern University's School of Law in Chicago where he received a master's degree in criminal law.
Murray was a trial lawyer in Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s and represented defendants in state and federal criminal cases. He later became a producer of musical theater in Los Angeles until he fell ill in 2006.