AUSTIN, Minn. – Ira James Holton, chief executive officer of Hormel Foods from 1972-1981, died April 12 at age 92.

Holton spent 36 years at Hormel, where he was president of the company from 1969-1979. Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941. He joined the US Army and served in Europe during World War II, even participating in the Normandy invasion, according to a Univ. of Iowa Alumni Association (UIAA) biography. He was honored by the US military and the provisional French government for outstanding service.

After the war, he attended law school at the Univ. of Iowa and earned his law degree in 1947. He went to work in Hormel’s legal department as a staff attorney after graduating law school, according the UIAA. During his tenure at Hormel, Holton worked his way up from general counsel to chairman and CEO of the company. Holton retired from Hormel in 1983, although he remained active in The Hormel Foundation for 25 years.

Holton died at his home after a stay in St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, Iowa.