Nelson Rockefeller’s Biography, Facts

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The surname Rockefeller stood out for being one of the most powerful in the United States of America in the 19th and 20th centuries, and one of the most prominent representatives of that clan of millionaire businessmen, politicians, and philanthropists was Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979).

He became four-time governor of New York and vice president of his country. Nelson Rockefeller’s present biography captures the highlights of this controversial character. You’ll be surprised!

Nelson Rockefeller’s biography

Nelson Rockefeller's Biography

A family of industrialists and patrons

To say that Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was born into a millionaire family is a rather modest claim. 26 years before his birth on July 8, 1908, grandfather John Davison Rockefeller dominated the monopoly of the U.S. oil industry through his company Standard Oil.

His parents were John Davison Rockefeller Jr., also a prominent industrialist, and Abigail Greene Aldrich, affectionately known as “Abby”. Rockefeller was the third son and, thanks to his strong temperament, the leader of his five brothers, Abigaíl (his only sister), John III, Laurance, Winthrop, and David.

Nelson Rockefeller and his presidential career

Rockefeller’s dynamic intelligence soon stood out in the studies. In 1930 he obtained a degree in Economics mention cum laude at Dartmouth University and the day after his graduation he married what would become his first wife, Mary Todhunter Clark.

From there he began his career as an industrialist in the family business. For example, he ran Chase National Bank, Rockefeller Center, and Standard Oil through a Venezuelan subsidiary of This company, Creole Petroleum.

A man like Nelson Rockefeller soon made himself known among American high politics. As a child I had said I wanted to be president of the United States and over there he aimed at leveraging the various business and philanthropic platforms his family-owned.

At just 32 years old, he expressed to the then President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, his concern about the influence of Nazism in Latin America. Roosevelt then granted him the Coordination of the Office of Latin American Affairs.

Nelson Rockefeller spoke Spanish very well and had a very close relationship with Latin America, especially with Venezuela, a country he visited repeatedly and where he invested in the supermarket, agriculture, and white line chains.

Subsequently, under the same government, Rockefeller served as Secretary of State and represented his country in the United Nations (UN) organization.

Suddenly, his political career experienced his first major setback, when the newly elected president, Harry S. Truman, fired him and turned Rockefeller’s policies 180 degrees. But this didn’t make him known. In 1950 he got Truman himself to appoint him as chairman of the International Development Advisory Board.

The change of government with the new president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, did not affect his work as an official of his country. Under his advice, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created and more than 10 million people were added to Social Security. Later, he became an assistant in foreign affairs.

Rockefeller introduced a caring and socially-aware outlook to Republican politics, which frequently placed him at odds with the more conservative Goldwater Republicans.

In several cases, he cracked stereotypical political molds. Despite his being free to use his own personal wealth, he was driven by a desire to serve his country. In his capacity as Governor of New York, Rockefeller brought to New York a level of spending with an emphasis on education, health, and government building.

However, after a lifetime of struggle for the presidency his vice presidency under Gerald Ford was a disappointment for Rockefeller.

The Governorate of New York

Rockefeller wanted to be more than an employee of the government on duty and saw in New York governorate a means to get to the presidency. In 1958 he resigned from his federal positions and focused on the campaign that would take him to the post of the governor for the first time. He tried to participate in the 1960 presidential race but was halfway there losing to the other Republican, Richard Nixon.

Curious Facts

Although his parents and grandfather John D. Rockefeller tried to instill in him the harsh principles of his Baptist beliefs, Nelson Rockefeller dismissed them because they clashed with his bold and ostentatious temperament.

In 1964 he tried again but was prevented by the scandal of his divorce amid accusations of infidelities by his wife. In fact, she married again 5 weeks after the divorce with an 18-year-old woman, Margaretta Large “Happy” Rockefeller, with whom she had two more children.

After unsuccessfully attempting to reach the White House again in 1968, he continued as governor, a position he held for four immediate terms.

Resignation and death of the great Rockefeller

14 years after his first election to the New York government, in 1974, he resigned from this position and received the vice-presidential nomination of President Gerald Ford, a position he held until 1977 when he resigned from politics because his presidential aspirations were definitively truncated

Nelson Rockefeller provided the resources to finance the first English translation of the book One Hundred Years of Solitude written by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.

On January 26, 1979, the world dawned with surprising news: Nelson A. Rockefeller had died at age 70 of a heart attack in his Rockefeller Center office. However, a more truculent truth came to light: The attack came to him at his home where he encountered a 25-year-old assistant named Megan Marshack. His funerals were attended by more than 2000 people.

Nelson Rockefeller left a great legacy as a patron and art collector. Among other functions, he managed and presided over the Museum of Modern Art in New York and founded the Museum of Primitive Art.

It is estimated that by the time of Rockefeller’s death his family’s total fortune amounted to about $490,000,000.

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