MCI founder John Goeken dead at 80

He was 80. Goeken died on Thursday at a hospital in his hometown of Joliet, according to Pat Schneider, a close friend and executive vice-president of the Goeken Group Corp, a company he founded in Chicago's suburbs after leaving MCI.

Goeken is widely viewed as the father of air-to-ground telephone communication. As a founder of MCI and Airfone Inc, he sought to make communication possible anywhere people go - an idea that at the time revolutionised the telecommunications industry.

He also won a reputation as "Jack the Giant Killer" because of his passion for busting up communications monopolies like AT&T.

"You do it because it's something you believe in," Goeken told The Associated Press for a 1994 profile. "Everybody comes in and says you can't do something, so I do it just to prove it."

He defied convention and was one of the founders of Microwave Communications Inc in 1963, setting up a system of microwave towers to provide long-distance service between Chicago and St Louis to compete with American Telephone & Telegraph Co.

The company went on to become MCI Communications Corp, the nation's second-largest long-distance telephone provider after AT&T. He left MCI in 1974 and two years later founded Airfone Inc, the first air-to-ground telephone service.

Always restless, Goeken went on to several other ventures after Airfone, and founded Naperville, Ill,-based Goeken Group Corp in 1995.

"To know Jack was to love him, because he always had a quick smile, a joke to share and a kind word," Goeken Group said in a statement. "He was very appreciative of the people around him."

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