During his tenure, McDonnell Douglas Corp. made missiles, spacecraft and military and commercial planes, and was the St. Louis region's biggest company. Today, it is part of the Boeing Co.
Mr. McDonnell was born in Little Rock, Ark., and graduated from Central High School, later integrated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957 with the help of federal troops.
Mr. McDonnell earned a degree in economics from Princeton University in 1945, another in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado in 1948, and a master's degree in applied mechanics in 1954 from Washington University.
His parents moved to St. Louis in 1944. His father, the late William A. McDonnell, retired as chairman of the First National Bank in St. Louis.
During World War II, Mr. McDonnell served in the Army, spending two years on the atomic bomb program in Los Alamos, N.M.
That's where he met his future wife, Priscilla Robb.
Mr. McDonnell retired in 1988 and his company survived another nine years. In 1997, Boeing bought it and the McDonnell name disappeared.
Survivors, in addition to his wife, include a daughter, Robbin McDonnell MacVittie of Merrimack County, N.H.; a son, Randy McDonnell of Frontenac; a sister, Cherry McDonnell Lawrence of Bronxville, N.Y.; and a grandson.