Wall Street Legends No 10 - Bernard Baruch

Bernard Baruch

Bernard Mannes Baruch (August 19, 1870 – June 20, 1965) was an American financier, stock-market speculator, statesman, and political consultant.

After his success in business, he devoted his time toward advising U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt on economic matters and became a philanthropist.

Bernard Baruch was born in Camden, South Carolina to Simon and Belle Baruch. He was the second of four sons. His father Simon Baruch (1840–1921) was a German immigrant of Jewish ethnicity who came with his family to the United States in 1855. He studied medicine, became a doctor, and served as a surgeon on the staff of Confederate general Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War. He was a pioneer in physical therapy. His mother's Sephardic Jewish ancestors (likely from Amsterdam or London) came to New York as early as the 1690s, where they became part of the shipping business.

In 1881 the family moved from Camden to New York City, where Bernard and his brothers attended local schools. He then studied at and graduated from the City College of New York.

Baruch became a broker and then a partner in A.A. Housman & Company. With his earnings and commissions, he bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for $18,000 ($434,000 in today's dollars). There he amassed a fortune before the age of 30 via speculation in the sugar market. By 1903 Baruch had his own brokerage firm and gained the reputation of 'The Lone Wolf on Wall Street' because of his refusal to join any financial house. By 1910, he had become one of Wall Street's best-known financiers.

In 1925 he endowed the Mrs. Simon Baruch University Award in memory of his mother, to support scholars who have written unpublished monographs for full-length books onConfederate history. His mother had been an early member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and supported their activities.

In 1916, Baruch left Wall Street to advise president Woodrow Wilson on national defense. He served on the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense and, in 1918, became the chairman of the new War Industries Board. With his leadership, this body successfully managed the US's economic mobilization during World War I. In 1919, Wilson asked Baruch to serve as a staff member at the Paris Peace Conference. Baruch did not approve of the reparations France and Britain demanded of Germany, and supported Wilson's view that there needed to be new forms of cooperation between nations, and supporting the creation of the League of Nations.

In the 1920s and 30s, Baruch expressed his concern that the United States needed to be prepared for the possibility of another world war. He wanted a more powerful version of theWar Industries Board, which he saw as the only way to ensure maximum coordination between civilian business and military needs. Baruch remained a prominent government adviser during this time, and supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's domestic and foreign policy initiatives after his election.

During President Roosevelt's New Deal program, Baruch was a member of the 'Brain Trust' and helped form the National Recovery Administration (NRA).

When the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt appointed Baruch a special adviser to the director of the Office of War Mobilization. He supported what was known as a 'work or fight' bill. Baruch advocated the creation of a permanent superagency similar to his old Industries Board. His theory enhanced the role of civilian businessmen and industrialists in determining what was needed and who would produce it. Baruch's ideas were largely adopted, with James Byrnes appointed to carry them out. During the war Baruch remained a trusted adviser and confidant of President Roosevelt, who in 1944 spent a month as a guest at Baruch's South Carolina estate.

In 1946 President Harry S. Truman appointed Baruch as the United States representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC). On Friday, June 14, 1946, Baruch presented his Baruch Plan, a modified version of the Acheson–Lilienthal plan, to the UNAEC, which proposed international control of then-new atomic energy. The Soviet Union rejected Baruch's proposal as unfair given the fact that the U.S. already had nuclear weapons; it proposed that the U.S. eliminate its nuclear weapons before a system of controls and inspections was implemented. A stalemate ensued.

Baruch resigned from the commission in 1947. His influence began to diminish, as he grew further out of step with the views of the Truman administration.

Baruch was well-known, and often walked or sat in Washington, D.C's Lafayette Park and in New York City's Central Park. It was not uncommon for him to discuss government affairs with other people while sitting on a park bench: he became known for this.

In 1960, on his ninetieth birthday, a commemorative park bench in Lafayette Park across from the White House was dedicated to him by the Boy Scouts.

He continued to advise on international affairs until his death on June 20, 1965, in New York City, at the age of ninety-four. His grave is at Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, Queens, New York City, USA.

Bernard Baruch owned a string of Thoroughbred racehorses and raced under the name, Kershaw Stable. In 1927 his horse, Happy Argo, won the Carter Handicap.

Source - www.wikipedia.com

image: © Library of Congress (National Photo Service, 1920)

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