David Rockefeller: An Alternative Obituary

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by Erik Wallenberg
Jacobin
March 31, 2017

As a child growing up in a mansion on 54th Street in Manhattan, David Rockefeller remembered roller-skating with his siblings down Fifth Avenue trailed by a limousine in case they got tired. Rockefeller and his family, which included billionaires and politicians at all levels of government, spent a lifetime ensconced in this kind of luxury. At the time of his death on March 20, Forbes estimated that the 101-year-old Rockefeller’s investments in real estate, share of family trusts, and other holdings stood at $3.3 billion.

The obituaries and tributes waxed nostalgic, giving us all the gilt with none of the grit. Instead of a reckoning with what this man, alongside his powerful family, wrought over a 101-year life, the eulogies have been hollow celebrations and stories of celebrity-filled parties.

Not to be confined to the obituaries, JP Morgan Chase & Co. took out a full-page advertisement in the business section of the New York Times. With a half scowl, a black-and-white photograph of David Rockefeller looms in the center of the page, while a message from Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JP Morgan, attempted the poetic.

Dimon writes that Rockefeller left “an indelible, positive mark on our world as a leader in philanthropy, the arts, business and global affairs.” A former member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Dimon sat in that seat during the economic collapse of 2008 and was widely criticized for his role in the financial crisis that devastated millions. He also occupied the main seat at JP Morgan Chase, the same one Rockefeller held as chairman of Chase Manhattan from 1969 –1981, during the depths of New York City’s fiscal crisis, decades before Chase acquired JP Morgan.

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