Monday, May 26, 2008

Bernard Baruch was a financier and advisor to democratic presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Harry Truman. He was born in South Carolina in 1865 and died in New York in 1965.

His father was physician to Confederate general Robert E. Lee and rode with the original Ku Klux Klan when it served the purpose of running off Northern "Carpetbaggers" who came South after the Civil War to bilk the survivors out of their land.

The Baruchs moved to New York and young Barney tried his hand at Wall Street. He became a millionaire at thirty. The story told is that while the Baruch family was not religious, his mother insisted on observing Yom Kippur.

Mr. B was in the middle of a hot deal having invested most of his net worth selling short stock in a company that he believed would announce a cut in dividend the next day.

That evening his mother called to remind him the next day was the holiday, Yom Kippur. He was to spend the day with her and have no contact with the stock market.

All day long he was fidgeting at what might have happened in the market but his respect for his mother was such that he abided by her wishes.

At the end of the day he reviewed his telegrams finding that during the day his associates were imploring him to close out his position.

The morning after the holiday the stock took an unexpected large dip. He then replaced the shorted stock at a much lower price and made a fortune.

He was influential in setting up programs to increase industrial production in World War I and set Nuclear policy after World War II.

He became famous nationally when it was revealed that he often conducted business in later years from a bench in Central Park and would hold court there for for industrial titans and high government officials. When Winston Churchil visited the U. S. he taxied to Central Park to confer with Baruch.

On a warm spring day Congressman Tom Foley visited Democratic campaign Headquarters in Walla Walla. Most people were mowing lawns and other rites of early spring and as I sat next to Tom who was then Majority Whip we spoke of my former college roommate, Tom Lantos, a newly elected member of the house.

I related this story to him. One morning as Mr. Baruch entered his office adjacent to the stock market floor he was greeted by an earnest young man who handed him a letter. The missive was from a dear friend of his mother. It explained that the young man, her son, was looking forward to a career on Wall Street and any help the well known Wizard could give him would be appreciated.

Baruch took the boy by the arm. He explained the he was heading for the men's room at the far end of the floor. You will go with me as far as the door giving me an update on everything your family is doing in a very sincere manner.

Because you are with me every eye will be on you. If you you can't take it from there, you will never make it on the Street.

The next time I saw Tom Foley he reported that he followed up on our conversation encountering Tom Lantos in the House Cloak Room during a break. He invited him to sit near the entrance where all could see them and the future Speaker of the House and the freshman member had an earnest discussion about-----me.

I never heard the follow up on Baruch's young man but Tom Lantos during his lifetime became a world class legislative inspiration.


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