Kudos for Durant
Durant's abilities impressed contemporaries. Local historian Arthur Pound said Durant's lawyer, John J. Carton, "wanted me to realize that Billy Durant put no value on money for its own sake; that the founder of General Motors was an unconventional soul who soared high above ordinary humanity, that the one and only Billy... was almost a prince among mortals, enjoying first of all power, then excitement, then the affectionate adulation of his friends."
Fred Smith, once president of Oldsmobile, noted: "In spite of earnest scraps with W.C., I had at least the intelligence to see in him the strongest and most courageous individual then in the business and the master salesman of all time... It would be a poorly posted analyst who failed to list W.C. Durant as the most picturesque, spectacular and aggressive figure in the chronicles of American automobiledom."
An auditor in 1908 described the new Buick complex on Flint's north side as "the finest equipment in the country for the manufacturing and sale of automobiles" And in 1909 the Detroit News reported: "One must see for himself, one must walk over the literal miles of factories in the process of construction before one begins to grasp the immensity of the manufacturing undertaking that has made Flint, next to Detroit, the automotive center of the world."
Still, his critics never tired of noting Durant also suffered huge failures. Durant lost control of GM twice, started and lost another empire, Durant Motors, in the 1920s, went bankrupt in 1936 after being known as "bull of bulls" in the stock market of the roaring '20s, and ended up running a bowling alley in the early 1940s near the giant Buick complex he had created decades earlier. He died at age 85 in 1947.