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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 77


This is the snow-covered grave of Bernard Baruch.


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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