Children of Famous Parents: Capitalist John D. Rockefeller

About the children of famous American Capitalist John D. Rockefeller, biography of the kids.


"My mother and father raised but one question: Is it right, is it duty?" This was the legacy inherited (along with a huge fortune) by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), the only son of America's most famous billionaire.

Awed and unquestioning, the young Rockefeller followed in his father's footsteps, faithfully filling out a daily ledger his father had taught him to use as soon as he could read and write. The boy entered every 2c he earned for killing flies or sharpening pencils; mending a vase netted him $1. He inculcated this habit into his 6 children, all of whom also kept ledgers.

John, Jr., had the reputation of being tight-fisted, though he always tithed 10% for charity. His one flamboyant act was a fling at speculation when he 1st entered Wall Street. He was immediately fleeced of $1 million. Deeply ashamed of having caused his father anguish, he never again undertook any transaction without consulting the elder Rockefeller (and never again did he lose money). He married Abby Aldrich, a senator's daughter, who bore him one daughter, Abby, and then 5 sons in a row: John D., III, b. 1906; Nelson Aldrich, b. 1908; Laurance Spelman, b. 1910; Winthrop, b. 1912; and David, b. 1915. Except for Winthrop, former governor of Arkansas, who died in 1969, all the senior Rockefeller's grandsons are living. John D., III, runs the Rockefeller Foundation and Lincoln Center in New York. Nelson was governor of New York and was appointed Vice-President of the U.S. in 1974. He continues to have presidential aspirations. Laurance is deeply involved in conservation and building resort hotels. David is president of Chase Manhattan Bank.

When the senior Rockefeller was 94 years old in 1933, his 59-year-old son wrote him in a letter, "I have tried to do what you would have me do. I have striven to follow in your footsteps. In all these years of striving, your own life and example have been to me the most powerful and stimulating influence."

The continuity of the Rockefeller philosophy is reflected in a statement made by Laurance, referring to his father: "It is example, not precept, which is the important influence in molding the character of the young, and my father's example was completely consistent with the precepts by which he lived."

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