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Multi-Billionaire David Rockefeller Passes Away at Age 101

By Patrick Washington / Published on Tuesday, 21 Mar 2017 04:53 AM / No Comments
FILE PHOTO — David Rockefeller arrives at the funeral service for New York socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor at St. Thomas Church in New York, August 17, 2007. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky/File Photo

This afternoon, multi-billionaire and American banker David Rockefeller passed away at his residence in Pocantico Hills, New York living to be 101 years old. He was the last surviving grandson of the infamous oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937). The family spokesman, Fraser P. Seitel, announced that the centenarian, who was the world’s oldest billionaire, died of congestive heart failure.

David Rockefeller became a success in business himself serving as head of Manhattan Chase (now JP Morgan Chase) from the 1960s until he retired in 1981. He started working at the bank in 1946 and quickly rose through the ranks becoming president in 1960. His focus for the company was global expansion in which he by increasing the number of foreign Chase branches from 11 to 73.

Rockefeller was born on June 12, 1915, the youngest child of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960) and Abigail (nee Aldrich) Rockefeller (1874-1948). Of course, we all know of his grandfather on his father’s side of the family but his grandfather on his mother’s side was a very influential politician, Nelson W. Aldrich (1841-1915), who represented New York in the United States Senate from 1881 to 1911. Senator Aldrich actually died a couple of months before David was born.

Although David did not enter politics himself, two of his elder brothers held elective office. One of those brothers, Winthrop Rockefeller (1912-1973), served four years as governor of Arkansas and his other brother, Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979), served four terms as governor of New York and as Gerald Ford’s vice-president.

Young David attended the Lincoln School. The Lincoln School was founded by Abraham Flexner (1866-1959), who was a disciple of the famous philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952). After attending the Lincoln School, David graduated from Harvard in 1936, went on to the London School of Economics, and then also received his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago.

David’s first job was working for New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947) and during World War II, he did a stint in the U.S. Army in which he was stationed in both France and North Africa.

In 1940, he was married to Margaret “Peggy” McGrath and together, they had six children, David Jr. (1941), Abigail (1943), Neva (1944), Margaret (1947), Richard (1949), and Eileen (1952). The couple stayed together for over half of century until Peggy died in 1996.

During his tenure with Chase Manhattan, he garnered much influence taking much advantage of his family name to raise his prestige. Rockefeller was highly popular with many heads of state and most likely had met more of them than many secretaries of state including his good friend, Henry Kissinger.

The businessman was actually offered cabinet positions by two administrations but declined them both.

In 1979, his influence came under the spotlight when he convinced the Carter State Department to permit the exiled Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi entry into the United States so that he could obtain medical care for lymphoma. Many observers credit this incident for sparking the disastrous Iran hostile crisis that lasted for 444 days.

After retirement, Rockefeller kept himself occupied by his many philanthropic endeavors. One of his favorite charities was the Museum of Modern Art in which he donated millions over the years. He had inherited his mother Abigail’s love of art and for his pleasure, collected many of pieces of fine art for himself. Many of his art collection was donated to several museums around the globe.

The billionaire also was a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (separate from the Rockefeller Foundation) that was established by him and his brothers to “advance social change that contributes more to a just, sustainable, and peaceful world.”

Well into his 90s, David Rockefeller kept himself active with multiple ventures ranging from distributing charity to influencing world leaders. Being the oldest member of the famous Rockefeller family, his passing marks the end of an American saga.

 

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Patrick Washington
Patrick N. Washington is a resident and native of Central Virginia. He has been engaged in political activism since he was a teenager. Patrick is the former vice-chair of the Petersburg Republican Committee. He presently serves as secretary of the Hopewell Republican Committee and as vice-chair of the Hopewell Electoral Board. He is also an ordained minister and has presided over the Enlightenment Synagogue since 2012.