Thursday, August 27, 2009



He rolled out from under the long Cadillac where he had been working. The khaki-clad man made his way toward us. We waited as he approached us while cleaning his hands on a dirty shop towel.

The farm manager said, "Fellows meet your boss, Mr. Rockefeller." The sudden unexpectency alarmed us already timid and frightened boys. Why he was doing his own work, when he had mechanics sitting all around doing nothing while he worked on his own car, I thought.

Our college professor, who had gotten us the job, told us he was just like other man--only rich!

However, it didn't take me long to see he was a man that liked to do what others did, and while he had inherited over a quarter of a billion dollars, didn't appear to be the stuffed shirt we figured he would be. He was a large man who humbled many with his stature and wealth, and I will always remember his contribution to my home state and the many he helped. At the time I didn't know he would become its future governor and a benefactor to countless he served.

Winthrop A. Rockefeller as the first Republican Governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction. He was a third-generation member of the Rockefeller family.

Winthrop Rockefeller was born in New Jersey to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, the former Abby Greene Aldrich. His four famous brothers were: Nelson, David, Laurance and John D. III. Nelson served as Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States.

Winthrop attended Yale University from 1931 to 1934 but was ejected as a result of misbehavior before earning his degree. Prior to attending Yale, he graduated from the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut.

He enlisted into the 77th Infantry Division in early 1941 and fought in World War II, advancing from Private to Colonel and earning a Bronze Star with clusters and Purple Heart for his actions aboard the troopship USS Henrico, after a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa. His image appears in the Infantry Officer Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Rockefeller moved to central Arkansas in 1953 and established Winrock Enterprises and Winrock Farms atop Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton, Arkansas which is only 20 miles from my hometown.

He summer students from Texas A & M, who were studying Animal of Husbandry, would come to the farm because of his raising of a new bread of cows crossed from the Texas Longhorn and Brahman bulls. Bulls weigh 1,600 to 2,200 pounds and cows weigh 1,000 to 1,400 pounds. At birth, the calves weigh 60 to 65 pounds. This breed became known as the Santa Gertrudis. The birthing barns were, but hospitals for the delivery of these huge animals.
Mr. Rockefeller loved fine horses and was seen riding often with his wife or the farm manager.

In 1956, Rockefeller married his second wife, Jeanette Bartley McDonnell, a native of Washington State. (Who was his wife when I was there). She was a gracious and kind lady to us young workers.

She had previously been married to a pro American football player, a lawyer, and a stockbroker. By her, he acquired two stepchildren, Anne and Bruce Bartley. (He had a son, Winthrop Paul, by his first wife).

Rockefeller initiated a number of philanthropies and projects for the benefit of the people of in my home state. He financed the building of a model school at Morrilton, and led efforts to establish a Fine Arts Center in Little Rock. He also financed the construction of medical clinics in some of the state's poorest counties, in addition to making annual gifts to the state's colleges and universities.

These philanthropic activities continue to this day through the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

He may have learned from his early days what David learned late as recorded in Psalm 39. "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity...Surely every man walks in a vain show....he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them"

No comments: