Nelson Rockefeller

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Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller

In office
December 19, 1974 – January 20, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Gerald Ford
Succeeded by Walter Mondale

Born July 8, 1908
Bar Harbor, Maine
Died January 26, 1979 (aged 70)
New York City, New York
Political party Republican Party
Spouse (1) Mary Todhunter Clark (married 1930, divorced 1962)
(2) Margaretta Fitler Murphy (married 1963)

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (July 8, 1908January 26, 1979) was an American Vice President, governor of New York State, philanthropist and businessman.

A leader of the liberal wing of the Republican Party, he was Governor of New York from 1959 to 1973, where he launched many construction and modernization projects. As a descendant of one of the world's richest and best known families, he failed repeatedly in his attempts to become president, but he was appointed Vice President of the United States of America in 1974. He served from 1974 to 1977, and did not join the 1976 GOP national ticket with President Gerald Ford. He retired from politics when his term as Vice President was over.


[edit] Early life

Rockefeller was born in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was the son of John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. He was the grandson on his father's side of Standard Oil's founder and owner John Davison Rockefeller, Sr. and on his mother's side of United States Senator Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, a Republican from Rhode Island. He had four brothers: David (1915- ), Laurance (1910-2004), Winthrop (1912-1973), and John D. 3rd (1906-1978), and one sister, Abby (1903-1976). In 1930, he graduated from Dartmouth College, where he was a member of Casque and Gauntlet, a senior society, and the Zeta chapter of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. Rockefeller worked for a time in several family-run businesses and philanthropies before entering public service. From 1939 to 1958, he served as President of the Museum of Modern Art.

[edit] Early political career

Rockefeller was especially active in promoting modernization and democracy in Brazil and other parts of Latin America. He took over various responsibility roles during the presidencies of Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower. After the war, he headed the International Development Advisory Board, part of Harry S. Truman's Point Four Program. He “fulfils the functions of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA, 1940-44), is the Chairman of the Inter-American Development Commission and Corporation (1940-47) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs (1944-45)” While at the head of the OCIAA, Nelson Rockefeller relied on his connections with the cultural field to allow a policy promoting North American culture in South America. The MoMA he had created for his mother, had become the most important American Museum supporting modern arts and therefore carried out 19 exhibitions showing contemporary American paintings which were afterwards showed in a large number of cultural venues around South America; he thus contributed to the fight against fascist influences in the region.

He also was one of the architects of the Chapultepec Conference that had for goal to coordinate a continental cooperation of politics. Together with the Secretary of State Stetenius, Rockefeller was at the head of the American delegation. The United States firmly warned South American military forces against an even more fearsome enemy than the Nazis: USSR and communism. The Act of Chapultepec would therefore plan the possibility of collective actions including the possibility of using armed forces against any aggression of a non-American or -North-hemispheric nation and would commit signatories in the negotiation of a permanent reciprocal assistance and Inter-American solidarity treaty.

After staying aside for a while and dedicating himself to various philanthropic activities and the direction of the MoMA, Rockefeller became Special Assistant to President Eisenhower for Foreign Affairs (1954-55) before he accessed the head of the Operation Coordinating Board (OCB) – committee of the National Security Council in charge, among others, of supervising secret operations of the CIA. Working with the CIA was nothing new to him. After becoming the Health, Education and Welfare Assistant Secretary, he had been required to organise a colloquium addressed to the CIA on the role of the Agency in a different economic world. In March 1955, together with Rowland Hughes (Director of the Budget), he introduces a proposition for the creation of a high-level committee (Planning Coordination Group) that would be in charge of helping the development of schedules for the secret operations of the CIA.[citation needed]

The election of fellow Republican Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 saw Rockefeller gaining greater public and political influence. In 1956 he created the Special Studies Project, a major seven panel planning group directed by Henry Kissinger and funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, of which he was the then president. It was an ambitious study created to define the central problems and opportunities facing the U.S. in the future, and to clarify national purposes and objectives; it was finally published in 1961 as Prospect for America: The Rockefeller Panel Reports.

It came into national prominence with the early release of its military subpanel's report, whose principal recommendation was a massive military buildup to counter a then perceived military superiority threat posed by the USSR. It was released two months after the launching of Sputnik in October, 1957 and its recommendations were fully endorsed by Eisenhower in his State of the Union address in January, 1958.[1] Partly as a result, Eisenhower subsequently appointed him first as chair of the President's Advisory Committee on Government Reorganization and later as an undersecretary in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1953-1954).

This initial contact with Kissinger was to develop into a lifelong relationship; Kissinger was later to be described as his closest intellectual associate. From this period Rockefeller used him as a personally paid part-time consultant, principally on foreign policy issues, until the appointment to his staff full-time in late 1968. In 1969, when Kissinger entered Nixon's administration, Nelson paid him $50,000 as a severance payment.[2]

[edit] Governor of New York

Gov. Rockefeller meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968
Gov. Rockefeller meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968

Rockefeller left federal service in 1956 to concentrate on New York state and national politics, where he served in various capacities. In 1958, he was elected governor by over 600,000 votes, defeating incumbent governor, multi-millionaire W. Averell Harriman, even though 1958 was a banner year for Democrats elsewhere in the nation.

[edit] Tough laws on drug offenders

Rockefeller served as governor of New York from 1959 to 1973 (elected to four terms, he served three and a half). As governor of New York, he successfully secured the passage of strict laws against the possession and/or sale of drugs. These laws — which became known as the "Rockefeller drug laws" — took effect in 1973 and are still on the books. They ranked among the toughest in the United States.

[edit] Liberal Republican

Rockefeller was opposed by conservatives in the GOP such as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Compared to the conservatives, Rockefeller was more liberal in his domestic policies and spent and built more than his predecessors. Rockefeller expanded the state's infrastructure (especially highways and universities), and supported environmentalism, the arts, New Deal regulations of business, and Social Security.

Unlike most conservatives, who tended to oppose labor unions, he successfully collaborated with unions, especially the construction trades, which benefited from his extensive building programs.

In foreign affairs, Rockefeller opposed the isolationism of conservatives and supported US involvement in the United Nations and US foreign aid to help developing countries. He also supported the U.S.'s fight against communism and its membership in NATO.

As a result of Rockefeller's policies, some conservatives sought to gain leverage by creating the Conservative Party of New York. The small party acted as a counter-weight to the Liberal Party of New York State.

[edit] Attica Riots

On September 9, 1971, after four days of riots at the state prison in Attica, N.Y., Rockefeller gave the order for 1,000 New York State Police troopers and National Guardsmen to storm the prison.

More than 40 people died, including 11 of 38 hostages (most of whom were prison guards), the largest loss of life in armed conflict between groups of Americans since the American Civil War. Most of the deaths were attributed to the gunfire of the National Guard and state police. The prisoners had been demanding better living conditions, showers, education, and vocational training. Opponents blamed Rockefeller for these deaths in part because of his refusal to go to the prison and talk with the inmates, while his supporters, including many conservatives who had often vocally differed with him in the past, defended his actions as being necessary to the preservation of law and order.

[edit] Massive construction programs

Rockefeller engaged in massive building projects that left a profound mark on the state of New York, so much so that many of his detractors claimed that he had an "Edifice Complex." [3] He was personally interested in planning, design, and construction of the many projects intitiated during his administration--consistent with interest in art. Rockefeller was the driving force in turning the State University of New York into the largest system of public higher education in the United States. He demanded the imposition of tuition at the New York city colleges in return for conferring university status on them.

He also led in the creation and/or expansion of many major highways (such as the Long Island Expressway, the Southern Tier Expressway, the Adirondack Northway, and Interstate 81) which vastly improved road transportation in the state of New York. To create more low-income housing, Rockefeller created the unprecedented-in-its-power New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC), which could override local zoning, condemn property, and create financing schemes to carry out desired development. (UDC is now called the Empire State Development Corporation, which forms a unit, along with the formerly independent Job Development Authority, of Empire State Development.)

In addition, Rockefeller's construction programs included the $2 billion South Mall in Albany, later renamed the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza. It is a vast campus of government skyscrapers and plazas punctuated by an egg-shaped arts center. He worked with the legislature and unions to create generous pension programs for many public workers, such as teachers, professors, firefighters, police officers, prison guards, in the state. He pushed through the highest-in-the-nation minimum wage. Public-benefit authorities (some 230 of them, like UDC) were brought into existence by Rockefeller. They were often used to issue bonds in order to avoid the requirement of a vote of the people for the issuance of a bond; such authority-issued bonds bore higher interest than if they had been issued directly by the state. The state budget went from $2.04 billion in 1959-60 to $8.8 billion in his last year 1973-74.

Rockefeller also reformed the governing of New York City's transportation system, creating the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1965. It merged the New York City subway system with the publicly owned Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad, which were purchased by the state from private owners in a massive public bailout of bankrupt railroads.

In taking over control of the Triborough Authority, Rockefeller shifted power away from Robert Moses, who controlled several of New York state's public infrastructure authorities. Under the New York MTA, toll revenue collected from the bridges and tunnels, which had previously been used to build more bridges, tunnels, and highways, now went to support public transport operations, thus shifting costs from general state funds to the motorist. In one controversial move, Rockefeller abandoned one of Moses's most desired projects, a bridge from Rye to Oyster Bay in 1973 due to environmental opposition.

[edit] Conservation

Consistent with his personal interest in design and planning, Governor Rockefeller in the 1950s began expansion of the New York State Parks system and improvement of park facilities. He persuaded voters to approve three major bond acts to raise more the $300 million for acquisition of park and forest preserve land.[4] Rockefeller initiated studies of environmental issues, such as loss of agricultural land through development--an issue now characterized as "sprawl." In such concerns he was enlightened for his time (the late 1960s), at least in government, although notions were becoming more common in some circles. The State Commission for the Preservation of Agricultural Land issued a report early in 1968. In September, 1968, Rockefeller appointed the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks. This led to his introduction to the Legislature in 1971 of a bill to create the controversial Adirondack Park Agency. [5]

[edit] Crime

Rockefeller was a supporter of capital punishment and oversaw 14 executions by electrocution as Governor. Rockefeller was also a supporter of the "law and justice" platform.[citation needed]

[edit] Presidential campaigns

Rockefeller was a glad-hander who appeared affable and approachable, and maintained good relationships with the press. He easily won time and again in New York, but he wanted to be president. He spent millions in attempts to win the Republican primaries in 1960, 1964, and 1968. His bid in 1960 was ended early when then-Vice President Richard Nixon surged ahead in the polls. After quitting the campaign, Rockefeller backed Nixon enthusiastically, and concentrated his efforts on introducing more moderate stances into Nixon's platform.

Rockefeller, representing moderate and liberal Republicans, was considered the front-runner for the 1964 campaign against the more conservative Barry Goldwater of Arizona who led the right wing of the Republican Party. Rockefeller was originally the front runner for the Republican party's presidential nomination but his divorce and subsequent remarriage turned many socially conservative voters off. The birth of Rockefeller's child during the California campaign put the issue in the headlines. After a furious contest, Rockefeller lost the California primary and dropped out of the race.

Rockefeller again sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. His opponents were Nixon and Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California. In the contest, Rockefeller again represented the liberals in the GOP, Reagan representing the conservative Goldwater element, and Nixon representing the moderates. Nixon was always clearly the front runner throughout the contest because of his superior organization and he easily defeated both Reagan and Rockefeller.

[edit] Commission on Critical Choices for Americans

In November of 1973, Rockefeller established an organization called the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans, of which he served as chairman. He resigned as Governor of New York in December of 1973, devoting himself to his new commission and the possibility of another presidential run.

[edit] Vice President of the United States

Following President Nixon's resignation, new president Gerald Ford nominated Rockefeller to serve as the 41st Vice President of the United States, after a long process of considering various candidates. Rockefeller's top competitor had been George H.W. Bush.

Rockefeller underwent extended hearings before Congress, which caused embarrassment when it was revealed he made massive gifts to senior aides, such as Henry Kissinger. He had paid all his taxes, no illegalities were uncovered, and he was confirmed. Although conservative Republicans were not pleased that Rockefeller was picked, most of them did vote for his confirmation. However, some, including Goldwater, voted against him.[6]

Beginning his service on December 19, 1974, Rockefeller was the second person appointed Vice President under the 25th Amendment — the first being Ford himself. Rockefeller often complained that Ford gave him little or no power, and few tasks, while he was Vice President. Ford responded to this by putting Rockefeller in charge of his "Whip Inflation Now" initiative. In November 1975, Rockefeller told Ford he wanted off the ticket, saying that he "didn't come down (to Washington) to get caught up in party squabbles which only make it more difficult for the President in a very difficult time..."[7] Journalists speculated[8] that Ford decided to drop Rockefeller in favor of the more conservative Robert Dole under pressure from the conservative wing of the party.

While Rockefeller was Vice President, the official Vice Presidential residence was established at Number One Observatory Circle on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory. This residence had previously been the home of the Chief of Naval Operations; prior Vice Presidents had been responsible for maintaining their own homes at their own expense, but the necessity of massive full-time Secret Service security had made this custom impractical to continue. Rockefeller already had a luxurious, well-secured Washington residence and never actually lived in the home as a principal residence, although he did host several official functions there. His wealth enabled him to donate millions of dollars of furnishings to the house.

Rockefeller was slow to embrace the use of the government aircraft that were provided for Vice Presidential transportation. Rockefeller continued to use his own private comfortably equipped Gulfstream for the first part of his time in office. It was operated under the call sign Executive Two when the Vice President was onboard. Initially Rockefeller felt he was doing the taxpayer a favor saving money by not using government funded transportation. Finally the Secret Service was able to convince him they were spending more money flying agents around to meet the needs of his protective detail and he began to fly on the DC-9 that was serving as Air Force Two at the time.[9]

On January 10, 1977, Ford presented Rockefeller with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

[edit] Marriages

On June 23, 1930, Rockefeller married Mary Todhunter Clark They had five children: Rodman, Anne, Steven, and twins Mary and Michael. In 1962 they divorced. The following year he married Margaretta Fitler Murphy. They had two children together, Nelson, Jr. and Mark. They remained married until his death in 1979.

[edit] Death

Rockefeller died on the evening of Friday, January 26, 1979 from a heart attack under circumstances whose details have never been completely revealed. Initial reports[10] said Rockefeller had returned to his RCA Building office to work on a book about his art collection, where a security guard found him slumped over his desk; however, it was later disclosed that Rockefeller actually had the fatal heart attack in his Manhattan townhouse in the presence of 26-year-old aide Megan Marshack and that some time later Marshack had called her friend, news reporter Ponchitta Pierce, to the townhouse and it was Pierce who phoned 911 approximately an hour after the heart attack.[11] Much speculation went on in the press regarding a personal relationship between Rockefeller and Marshack,[12] further fueled by reports that she was a named beneficiary in his will.[13] Neither Marshack nor the family has commented since on the circumstances surrounding Rockefeller's death.[14]

Nelson Rockefeller was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. His ashes were scattered at the Rockefeller Estate in nearby Tarrytown. He does not have a final resting place in a cemetery.

[edit] Art collector

Rockefeller was a noted collector of modern art. During his administration the state acquired major works of art for the new Albany governmental complex and elsewhere. He continued his mother's work at the Museum of Modern Art, as president, and turned the basement of his Kykuit mansion into a noted museum while placing works of sculpture around the grounds (an activity he enjoyed personally supervising, frequently moving the pieces from place to place by helicopter). While he was overseeing construction of the State University of New York system, Rockefeller built, in collaboration with his lifelong friend Roy Neuberger, a museum on the campus of SUNY Purchase College, the Neuberger Museum, designed by Philip Johnson. He commissioned Master Santiago Martinez Delgado, to make a canvas mural for the Bank of NY (City Bank) in Bogotá Colombia, this end up being the last work of the artist as he died while finishing it.

[edit] Bibliography

  • Bleecker, Samuel E. The Politics of Architecture: A Perspective on Nelson A. Rockefeller, Rutledge Press, 1981. Deals with the architecture of New York State buildings.
  • Cobbs, Elizabeth Anne. The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil, Yale University Press, 1992.
  • Cobbs, Elizabeth A. "Entrepreneurship as Diplomacy: Nelson Rockefeller and the Development of the Brazilian Capital Market," Business History Review, 1989 63(1): 88-121. Examines NR's Fundo Crescinco, a mutual fund that he started in Brazil in the 1950s to continue FDR's Good Neighbor policy. It reflected both liberal assumptions about the importance of the middle class to economic development and the concerns of business people about placating Latin American nationalism.
  • Colby, Gerard & Charlotte Dennett. Thy Will be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, 1995.
  • Connery, Robert H. and Gerald Benjamin. Governing New York State: The Rockefeller Years, 1974. An in-depth analysis.
  • Bernard J. Firestone and Alexej Ugrinsky, eds. Gerald R. Ford and the Politics of Post-Watergate America. Volume: 1. Greenwood Press, 1993. (pp 137-94). One chapter has analysis by scholars of the Vice-Presidency.
  • Deane, Elizabeth, (Director). The Rockefellers, A documentary film, 1999.
  • Donovan, Robert John. Confidential Secretary: Ann Whitman's Twenty Years with Eisenhower and Rockefeller, New York: Dutton, 1988.
  • Isaacson, Walter, Kissinger: A Biography, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, (updated, 2005).
  • Kramer, Michael and Roberts, Sam. "I Never Wanted to Be Vice-President of Anything!": An Investigative Biography of Nelson Rockefeller, 1976.
  • Light, Paul. "Vice-presidential Influence under Rockefeller and Mondale." Political Science Quarterly 1983-1984 98(4): 617-640. in JSTOR
  • Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, 2002. On the 1964 election.
  • Persico, Joseph E. The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York: Pocket Books, 1982 (The author was a senior aide).
  • Reich, Cary. The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958, New York: Doubleday, 1996. {Volume 1 of the most comprehensive biography of Nelson ever written, the author had accessed many papers in the Rockefeller Archive Center for his research but died before writing Volume 2, covering the crucial period from 1959 to 1979.}
  • James Reichley; Conservatives in an Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations, Brookings Institution, 1981.
  • Rivas, Darlene. Missionary Capitalist: Nelson Rockefeller in Venezuela. University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Straight, Michael. Nancy Hanks, an Intimate Portrait: The Creation of a National Commitment to the Arts. Duke University Press, 1988. She was a top aide (and lover).
  • Turner, Michael. The Vice President as Policy Maker: Rockefeller in the Ford White House, New York: Greenwood, 1982.
  • Underwood, James E. and Daniels, William J. Governor Rockefeller in New York: The Apex of Pragmatic Liberalism, New York: Greenwood, 1982.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Creation of the Special Studies Project in 1956 - see Cary Reich, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958, New York: Doubleday, 1996. (pp. 650-667)
  2. ^ Relationship with Kissinger - see Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, New York: Simon & Schuster, Revised edition, 2005. (pp. 90-93),
  3. ^ "Is the Rock Still Solid?", TIME Magazine, 19 October 1970
  4. ^ "Theodore RooseveltAlfred E. Smith–Nelson Rockefeller–George Pataki." The New York State Preservationist. NYS Ooffice of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Fall/Winter 2006, p. 20
  5. ^ Graham, Frank, Jr. The Adirondack Park: A Political History. New York City: Knopf, 1978
  6. ^ Time Magazine article
  7. ^ "Excerpts From Rockefeller Conference Explaining His Withdrawal", The New York Times, 7 November 1975, p. 16
  8. ^ "Mutual Decision: Vice President's Letter Gives No Reason for his Withdrawal", The New York Times, 4 November 1975, p. 73
  9. ^ "Petro, Joseph; Jeffrey Robinson (2005). Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-33221-1.
  10. ^ See, for example, CBS News report of February 8, 1979, Roger Mudd reporting on conflicting stories about circumstances of Rockefeller's death.
  11. ^ See, for example, this transcript of The Rockefellers (Part 2) a PBS American Experience documentary aired in 2000 about the Rockefeller family and these print media articles: Robert D. McFadden, "New Details Are Reported on How Rockefeller Died", The New York Times, 29 January 1979; Robert D. McFadden, "Call to 911 for Stricken Rockefeller Did Not Identify Him", The New York Times, 30 January 1979; Robert D. McFadden, "Rockefeller's Attack Is Now Placed at 10:15, Hour Before 911 Call", The New York Times, 7 February 1979; Robert D. McFadden, "Rockefeller Aide Did Not Make Call to 911", The New York Times, 9 February 1979; and "Marshack Friend Makes Statement on Rockefeller", The New York Times, 11 February 1979.
  12. ^ For example, long-time Rockefeller aide Joe Persico said in the PBS documentary about the Rockefeller family (see this), "It became known that he had been alone with a young woman who worked for him, in undeniably intimate circumstances, and in the course of that evening had died from a heart attack."
  13. ^ This was widely reported at the time; see, for example, Peter Kihss, "Bulk of Rockefeller's Estate is Left to Wife; Museums Get Large Gifts", The New York Times, 10 February 1979; this piece that aired on NBC's Evening News on February 9, 1979; and this piece by Max Robinson that aired on ABC Evening News on February 9, 1979.
  14. ^ Robert D. McFadden, "4 Rockefeller Children Say All At Hand Did Their Best", The New York Times, 15 February 1979: the statement released by Rockefeller's children concludes, "...we do not intend to make any further public comment."

[edit] External links

Preceded by
W. Averell Harriman
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Malcolm Wilson
Preceded by
Gerald Ford
Vice President of the United States
December 19, 1974January 20, 1977
Succeeded by
Walter Mondale