Zable, known as a hands-on, detail-oriented executive who loved quizzing employees about their recent work, founded HR Electronics in his garage in Point Loma in 1949 on a $5,000 investment and a belief that the electronics industry would play a major role in the post-World War II economy and the growth of San Diego. Today, Cubic, the name selected in 1951, has 7,800 employees and sales of more than $1.2 billion a year, with an array of products for national security and civilian transportation systems. The Cubic fare collection system is used in public transit systems in 40 major markets from the London Underground to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District.
After graduating from high school in 1933, he attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., on an athletic scholarship. At 6 feet 3 and 180 pounds, he was a star receiver and wingback and was named honorable mention All-American in his senior year.
He graduated in 1937 with a degree in physics and played a season with the Richmond Arrows football team in the Dixie League. He then enrolled at the University of Florida, where he received a master's degree in physics and mathematics in 1939.
In 1981, Zable was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1990, he donated $10 million to the College of William & Mary for scholarships, graduate student aid and other programs; the college renamed its football stadium for Zable.
Zable is survived by his wife, Stefanie, of Rancho Santa Fe; son Walter C. Zable, a Cubic executive; daughter Karen Cox; and five granddaughters. His first wife, Betty Virginia Carter Zable, whom he married in 1942, died in 2007.