Tan Sri Abdullah Mohd. Salleh hails from Melaka and he received his early education at the Malacca High School. After passing his ‘School Certificate' examinations, Tan Sri Abdullah continued his studies at the Kuala Kangsar Malay College to prepare for university. His experience during World War II taught him to be strong and resilient while facing difficulties. In 1950, he successfully gained a place at the University of Malaya in Singapore where he completed his study to receive a B.A. (Hons.) in 1955.
His career in the administrative field began when he served for the Johore State Government in 1955. In the following year, Tan Sri Abdullah was accepted as a M.C.S (Malayan Civil Service) Probationer Officer and was posted to the state of Perak as the State Government Deputy Secretary. As an administrator, it was natural that Tan Sri Abdullah's abilities in carrying out his duties was under the scrutiny of related parties. The proven abilities caught the attention of Senior Officers at the Federal Establishment Office (FEO) who appointed Tan Sri Abdullah as the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra in 1959. YTM Tunku gave a 6 months probationary period to Tan Sri Abdullah. His dedication, patience and excellent adaption to the post as a private secretary to the nation's leader, saw him continue to serve the first prime Minister until 1962 when he was requested to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Public Service Commission for 5 years.
In 1967 Tan Sri Abdullah was transferred back to the Prime Minister's Department as the Cabinet Junior Secretary. While holding this post, he continued to gain experience in administrative matters as he was in close contacts with the Prime Minister and his deputy. In 1972, he was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as the Ministry's Secretary General until 1974. Because of Tan Sri Abdullah's vast experience in the national administrative affairs, he was then appointed as the Director General of the Public Service Department on 1 August 1974. His success reached the pinnacle in 1976 when was appointed as the Chief Secretary of Malaysia.
Apart from his duties as an administrator, Tan Sri Abdullah also held posts in government, sports and voluntary bodies. Among them are as follows:-
- 1. Chairman,The National University of Malaysia Council
2. Deputy Chairman, Subang National Golf Club;
3. President of Family Planning Association Federation; and
4. President of Malacca High School Old Boys' Association for Wilayah Persekutuan and Selangor.
As an administrator,he dedicated his service for the country and the nation, and .he had the opportunities to serve under three Prime Ministers namely, YTM Tunku Rahman Putra, the then deceased Tun Abdul Razak and YAB Tun Hussein Onn. His experience which began with the reshuffling of the country's administration after independence and followed with an administration of the country's development which shifted with the New Economic Policy had opened up the opportunities for Tan Sri Abdullah to gain a complete knowledge and maturity in the field of administration. This reflects his efficiency as an administrator and was the basis for him to be appointed the Chairman and Chief Executive of PETRONAS on 1 January 1979. His contribution in administrating the nation has benefited the development of the country and this reflects Tan Sri Abdullah's success in his career.
Good services rendered will always be cherished and appreciated. The same go with the seeds of deeds sown by Tan Sri Abdullah to the country.
He has been bestowed with honours including Darjah Mulia Sri Melaka (DMSM) award in 1974. He was also awarded Panglima Mangku Negara (PMN) which brought him the title Tan Sri by His Majesty DYMM Yang Di Pertuan Agong in 1977. In 1980 Tan Sri Abdullah was awarded Ijazah Doktor Kehormat Undang-undang (Honorary Doctorate of Law) by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In the same year he was awarded INTAN FELLOW by Institut Tadbiran Awam Negara. Tan Sri Abdullah was also awarded Datuk Paduka Mahkota Terengganu (DPMT) medal in 1981.
Personage of Historical Narration Series on the Malaysian Administration,
21 March 1987,
at the National Archives of Malaysia