Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 77

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 77

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This is the snow-covered grave of Bernard Baruch.

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Born to a Jewish family in Camden, South Carolina in 1870, Baruch’s parents moved to New York City in 1881, where he became educated and went into business. He started as a broker for H.H. Houseman & Company and then rose to partner. He bought himself a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and became rich before he turned 30 using that seat to speculate on the sugar market. He started his own brokerage firm in 1903. Despite being Jewish, he was very much a man of the southern Democratic Party. His mother was an early supporter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and he was very interested in the study and support of romanticizing treason in defense of slavery, endowing the Mrs. Simon Baruch University Award for scholars working on how awesome the Confederate traitors were.

But he also became a leading advisor to Democratic presidents, starting with Woodrow Wilson. In 1918, he became the chair of the War Industries Board, the early attempt for national economic planning that would prove a good trial run for the New Deal and World War II. He was also on Wilson staff at the Paris Peace Conference, where he opposed the reparations placed on Germany. He remained an internationalist in the 1920 and 1930s, running counter to the isolationism so prominent at that time. He believed another major war was likely and wanted to coordinate relationships between business and government. He became a close advisor to FDR in 1933, helping to form the National Recovery Administration. He became especially important during World War II, helping to create the various plans to coordinate the war. In 1946, Truman named him the U.S. representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, where he proposed international control of atomic energy, a plan Stalin rejected because the U.S. wouldn’t give up its nuclear weapons. He remained a major figure, even as he fell out of favor with Truman after 1947, often speaking publicly about politics up to the point of his death in 1965.

No one has ever played Baruch in the movies, but he did appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

Bernard Baruch is buried in Flushing Cemetery, Queens, New York

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  • Murc

    He remained a major figure, even as he fell out of favor with Truman after 1947, often speaking publicly about politics up to the point of his death in 1965.

    95 years! He really hung in there. Hard to imagine a fella who would have been old enough to vote for Grover Cleveland was still politically relevant during the LBJ administration.

    • NewishLawyer

      Bertrand Russel had a similarly amazing life span from 1872-1970. They were born in the age of horse and carriage and died in the Jet Age.

      • AB

        Liszt met both Beethoven and Debussy.

        • The Dark God of Time

          Liszt’s last pupil, José Vianna da Motta, died in 1948 at the age of 80.

      • Brett

        Now that must have been fascinating. Coming to adulthood at a time when powered flight hadn’t been invented yet, and dying a year after the Moon Landing . . .

    • Brett

      That reminds me of John Rockefeller Sr, who lived for 97 years between 1839 and 1937. He was old enough to first vote in the election for Abraham Lincoln, but lived long enough that he might have cast a ballot for Alf Landon in 1936. A life that stretched across the entire First Gilded Age, where it’s conceivably possible that he could have met someone alive at the time of the American Revolution, and there are possibly folks alive today who knew him when he was alive.

      It’s an interesting reminder of how short of time the US has existed as an independent country. 241 years, or just a shade below ten generations.

  • Thom

    What the hell did he do on Ed Sullivan? All I remember of the show are music acts, trapeze artists, and the like. Were there interviews sometimes?

    • Murc

      Were there interviews sometimes?

      Lots of’em. He had Castro on once!

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        We can talk about Castro and baseball on this thread and the baseball one, too.

        Woohoo!!

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    Baruch was one of those people who wanted to be seen giving advice to Presidents as much as anything. I think it’s in Kenneth Galbraith’s memoirs that in the immediate aftermath of FDR’s death he was such a pest Eleanor said “I thought he was going to climb in the casket with Franklin”

  • Woodrowfan

    “when shoe shine boys are giving stock tips it’s time to get out.”

    • The Dark God of Time

      That has been attributed to Joe Kennedy, Sr.

  • Breadbaker

    So he was a major economic adviser to the President during two World Wars but has never been portrayed on film. I wonder which characteristic of him might have kept him out of, say, Wilson.

  • parsec

    Baruch’s father had been a field surgeon in the Confederate army. Bernard mentioned in his autobiography the time he went through one of his father’s drawers and found the robes of a Klansman. And how filled with pride he was at the discovery!

    • I am curious as to the relationship between elite Southern Jews and the KKK.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        And was a cross a lazy option compared to building and transporting a wooden Cross of David?

  • Manny Kant

    Baruch was actually portrayed in the British TV series “Chuchill: The Wilderness Years”, played by Sam Wanamaker.

  • Todd

    According to IMDB, silent movies era leading man Francis X. Bushman portrayed “Barnard Baruch” in 1944’s ‘Wilson’. His appearance was uncredited in the film.

    • I guess I need to learn how to search IMDB more effectively.

  • JL

    Despite being Jewish, he was very much a man of the southern Democratic Party.

    This wasn’t so odd among Western European Sephardim living in the South at the time – look at Judah Benjamin – as that was a community that, while small, had been integrated into antebellum Southern culture for quite a while by then. But looking him up, Bernard Baruch’s father was a first-gen Ashkenazi immigrant, which is a little odder (both the “living in South Carolina” part and the “Confederacy” part).

    • lahtiji

      David Levy Yulee (a not-so-distant relative of Judah Benjamin) of Florida was another, also Sephardi. He was a pretty ardent secessionist and slaveowner.

  • mamcu

    His daughter was amazing–Belle Baruch. She was fairly openly gay, rode her own horses in shows (and wouldn’t sell the best one to either Hitler or Mussolini), piloted he own plane–all this in the early 20th century. She left her estate as a nature sanctuary. It’s wonderful (Hobcaw Barony, near Georgetown, SC).

    • tomstickler

      Belle Baruch bought Hobcaw from her father, then set up a foundation that today covers 16,000 acres of land on the South Carolina coast. This is the northern anchor for a stretch of undeveloped and protected land going all the way to the Charleston suburbs.

      http://hobcawbarony.org/about-hobcaw/history/

  • BiloSagdiyev

    I would hate to see what Glenn Beck would do with all of those facts.

  • louislouis

    He mentored my great-uncle, son of dirt poor Italian immigrants, and put him through business school. I had no idea about the whole Confederacy thing until I read this, though. Thanks.

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