Mild-mannered plutocrat recalls some excellent adventures in a temperate, often candid text.
Born 87 years ago in the largest private house in New York, Rockefeller evinces much respect for grandfather John D., the muckrakers’ perennial target. (“It was a different world then,” he writes of Standard Oil’s monopolistic practices.) Father John Jr., an earnest philanthropist with whom David exchanged letters even while they were in the same house, earned even more respect from his son who, ever mindful of his responsibilities, studied assiduously at Harvard and the London School of Economics. After wartime service as an intelligence officer and a stint as acolyte to Mayor LaGuardia, David became a banker and for a while rode the subway daily to Chase Bank—never owned or controlled by the family, he asserts, though Father was its largest shareholder. Much of this account deals with David’s career at Chase, which he transformed into an international presence. Credit him with reviving downtown Manhattan through the construction of Chase Plaza. From his 17th-floor office there or in Rockefeller Center’s Room 5600, he dealt with the world’s movers and shakers, networking at the highest levels in Russia, China, Latin America, and the Middle East. Though never seeking or accepting public office, Rockefeller founded and served on numerous boards and agencies. He did indeed start the Trilateral Commission, enlisting Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter, and others; conspiracy theorists may make what they will of his admission to being an “internationalist.” Also discussed: Rockefeller Center’s short tenure with Japanese owners, the work of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, diverse siblings (big brother Nelson emerges as a charismatic bully), and the troublesome younger generation. His lengthy text is perhaps self-serving, but such is the nature of autobiography.
A memoir, rich as a Rockefeller, that should fire up historians, pundits, and commentators: every page raises unanswered questions about a remarkable life. (Photo insert, not seen)