McNamara, a financial wizard, worked his up way to become president of the Ford Motor Co. but remained there little more than a month before he was chosen by President Kennedy as secretary of defense. As head of the armed forces, McNamara favored the planned Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and his policies led the conflict in Vietnam to be called "McNamara's War."
He remained in the cabinet following the assassination of Kennedy and served in the same post during President Johnson's second term, resigning in 1968 to become president of the World Bank. There he put his financial expertise to work, instituting a policy change that permitted the bank to give aid to state-owned development banks.
He was born on June 9, 1916, in San Francisco, Calif. He majored in mathematics and economics at the University of California and took post-graduate work at the Harvard Business School, graduating in 1939.