John Davison Rockefeller Jr. inherited a vast fortune that his father had built through the Standard Oil Trust. He spent some time in the family business, but his primary efforts were philanthropic.
Rockefeller was born on January 24, 1874, in Cleveland, Ohio, the fifth child and only son of John D. Rockefeller Sr. The Rockefeller family was deeply religious and the young man was raised with a sense of duty to family and church. He attended the Browning School in New York City and then graduated from Brown University, in 1897. Following graduation, he joined the New York offices of the family business, Standard Oil Company, largely to please his father. He discovered, however, that making money held little interest for him.
Rockefeller married Abby Greene Aldrich, daughter of Rhode Island Senator Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, in 1901, and they had six children, a daughter and five sons: Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, John Davison Rockefeller III, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, Laurance Spelman Rockefeller, Winthrop Rockefeller, and David Rockefeller. Nelson became governor of New York and Winthrop became governor of Arkansas. Nelson went on to become vice president of the United States in 1974, under President Richard M. Nixon.
After 1910, John Junior's primary concern was philanthropy. Along with his father, he established several notable philanthropies, including the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the General Education Board.
He also is remembered for spearheading construction of the Rockefeller Center in New York City; funding the restoration of the historic district of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia; and donating the land where the United Nations building now stands in Manhattan, New York.
Even Rockefeller's position in New York City real estate started out as an attempt at philanthropy. His original intent in 1928, was to build a new opera house, but when the Great Depression caused the Metropolitan Opera to back out of its lease, he proceeded to build on the site. The result was the Rockefeller Center, a suite of office buildings yielding six million square feet of leasable space at a cost of $100 million, making him the largest holder of real estate in New York City.
Rockefeller was also interested in conservation, making large contributions to many national parks including Grand Teton, Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, and the Virgin Islands.
During both world wars, Rockefeller dedicated himself to raising money for the effort. During World War I, Rockefeller toured military encampments, spoke before troops on active duty and give counsel to individuals who sought it. He helped to establish the United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) in 1941, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rockefeller was actively involved in that organization.
Two years later, he assisted in the formation, along with the U.S.O., of the National War Fund, raising $321 million for U.S. servicemen, merchant marines, and others involved in the war. He also assisted in raising $35 million, as chairman of the United War Work Campaign in New York, for private organizations that assisted the troops during World War II.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. died on May 11, 1960. Rockefeller's many contributions to national parks were recognized in 1972 when Congress dedicated 24,000 acres for a parkway between Yosemite and Grand Teton to be named after him.
During a radio program in 1941, Rockefeller stated his philosophy of living while making a plea for the U.S.O. and the National War Fund. Rockefeller said,
"I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master. I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living. I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs. I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order. I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man's word should be as good as his bond; that character u0097 not wealth or power or position u0097 is of supreme worth."
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by John D. Rockefeller Jr..
Regarding Inherited Wealth
I was born into it [wealth] and there was nothing I could do about it. It was there, like air or food or any other element. The only question with wealth is what to do with it. It can be used for evil purposes or it can be an instrumentality for constructive social living.
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