John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was an American businessman and major philanthropist. He was the fifth and the last child of the famous businessman and Standard Oil industrialist, John D. Rockefeller. He was the father of the famous five Rockefeller brothers. Rockefeller, Jr radically changed the very basic identity of the family and the impact of its legacy and made the family name common with philanthropy and social causes. He also showed his keen interest in natural conservations and donated tens of thousands of acres to the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and the Acadia National Park in Maine. As a major philanthropist, he donated over $537 millions to various philanthropic causes during his lifetime.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Childhood & Early Life
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was born on January 29, 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio and was the fifth and last child of John D. Rockefeller and his wife, Laura Celestia Spelman.He attended Park Avenue Baptist Church at 64th Street (now Central Presbyterian Church). He studied in Browning School, which was located in a brownstone owned by the Rockefellers, on West 55th Street. Rockefeller, Jr. wanted to go to Yale but was persuaded by William Rainey Harper, president of the University of Chicago, to enter the Baptist-oriented Brown University. At the university, he joined both the Glee and the Mandolin Clubs. He was taught a Bible class and was elected junior class president. His extreme conscientiousness made him different from other rich men’s sons. Rockefeller, Jr. graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1897. He had studied nearly dozen courses in social studies including the Karl Marx's Das Kapital. He also joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
After completing his graduation, Rockefeller, Jr. joined his father's business on October 1, 1897. He operated from the newly-formed family office at Standard Oil's headquarters at 26 Broadway. He was one of the directors of Standard Oil. When J.P. Morgan formed U.S. Steel in 1901, Rockefeller, Jr. was one of the directors of the company. Following a scandal involving that then head of Standard Oil, John Dustin Archbold and bribes, he had made to two prominent Congressmen, Rockefeller, Jr. had to resign from the both the companies in 1910. He, probably, did it to show that his philanthropy is free from commercial and financial interests. In April, 1914, the Ludlow massacre occurred at the coal-mining company, Colorado Fuel and Iron (CFI). Rockefeller, Jr. had controlling stocks in the company and was the absentee director of the company. Twenty people died in the accident and Rockefeller, Jr. had to present his testimony before the US Commission on Industrial Relations on January, 1915. He was advised by William Lyon MacKenzie King and Ivy Lee to meet with the union organizer, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and admit his fault in the testimony. MacKenzie King, later, said that this testimony became the turning point in the life of Rockefeller, Jr. and helped to restore the reputation of Rockefeller family.
While during the Great Depression other companies and businesses were badly hit, Rockefeller, Jr. developed and became one of the largest real estate holders in New York City. He was the lone financier of a vast 14-building real estate complex in the geographical center of Manhattan, Rockefeller Center. His influential status helped to attract a number of blue chip companies as tenants in the complex, including GE and RCA, NBC and RKO, as well as Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), and Associated Press and Time Inc. In 1921, Rockefeller, Jr. received about 10% of the shares of the Equitable Trust Company from his father, hence becoming the bank's largest shareholder. In 1930, the Equitable Trust Company merged with the Chase National Bank, now JP Morgan Chase, and eventually, became the largest bank in the world. After the merger though his stockholding reduced to only 4%, he still remained the largest shareholder of the bank. In late 1920s, he founded the Dunbar National Bank in Harlem, which was located within the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments at 2824 Eighth Avenue near 150th Street. This bank was one of the unique financial institutions in the city due to its employment of African Americans as tellers, clerks, bookkeepers and in key management positions. Unfortunately, the bank was closed down after few years of operation.
Rockefeller, Jr. was mostly remembered for his philanthropic works and gave over $537 million to numerous causes during his lifetime. In 1900, he donated his family money to build a medical laboratory on the campus of Cornell Medical Center. This center, subsequently, became Memorial Hospital and decades later became the world renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In May, 1913, he became the Rockefeller Foundation's inaugural president and dramatically expanded the range of this institution, which was originally founded by his father. Later, he also took part in the development of other institutions set by his father such as the Rockefeller University and the International Education Board. In 1918, he founded the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, which later merged into the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929. In 1920s, he also donated a substantial amount towards the restoration and rehabilitation of major buildings in France after World War I, such as the Rheims Cathedral, the Château de Fontainebleau and the Château de Versailles, for which in 1936 he was awarded France's highest decoration, the Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur.
Rockefeller, Jr. was a committed internationalist and financially supported programs of the League of Nations. He also funded the formation and ongoing expenses of the Council on Foreign Relations and its initial headquarters building, in New York in 1921. In 1924, his wife encouraged him to provide important funds to Margaret Sanger to help her pioneering work on birth control and involvement in population issues. Rockefeller, Jr. constantly encouraged and helped the formation of United Nations. He provided financial support to the League of Nations and also gifted a major library for the League in Geneva which is still a resource for the UN. In 1946, he brought the land along the East River in Manhattan for $8.5 million from the major New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf and donated it to make it the United Nations headquarters. During his lifetime, Rockfeller, Jr. made considerable donations to various Protestant and Baptist institutions, which included the Interchurch World Movement, the Federal Council of Churches, the Union Theological Seminary, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York's Riverside Church and the World Council of Churches.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. married Abby Greene Aldrich on October 9, 1901 at the Aldrich Mansion at Warwick Neck, Rhode Island. The couple had six children, a daughter and five Rockefeller brothers, who were Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, John D. Rockefeller III, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, Laurance Spelman Rockefeller, Winthrop Rockefeller and David Rockefeller. His wife died of a heart attack at the family apartment at 740 Park Avenue in April, 1948. Rockefeller, Jr. remarried in 1951, to Martha Baird Allen.
Rockefeller, Jr. died of pneumonia on May 11, 1960 at the age of 86. He was buried in the family cemetery in Tarrytown.