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About Leonard Kimball Firestone
Leonard Kimball Firestone (born 10 June 1907 in Akron, Summit County, Ohio; died Pebble Beach, California on 24 December 1996), was a business man, ambassador and philanthropist.
The son of Harvey Firestone and Idabelle Smith Firestone, he was educated at The Hill School, and graduated from Princeton University in 1931, where he was active in golf and polo. He was a member of Alpha Kappa Psi, and later attendee at Bohemian Grove.
He was employed on graduation by the family company in sales positions by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, founded by his father in Akron, Ohio. In 1935, he was appointed sales manager and in 1939 became a director of Firestone. He was named president of Firestone Aviation Products Co. in 1941.
He was commissioned in the United States Navy as a lieutenant, but was assigned to inactive status to become president of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. of California in 1943. In 1966 he was the target of an abortive multi-million dollar kidnap plan. He retired as president of Firestone's California operations in 1970.
Politics and diplomacy
A staunch Republican, Firestone was delegate to Republican National Convention from California in 1944 (alternate), 1948 and 1952. In 1954 he was elected to the city council of Beverly Hills.
Firestone was chairman of the Nelson Rockefeller campaign in the California Presidential primary in 1964. Firestone was appointed U.S. ambassador to Belgium by President Richard Nixon in 1974, and was reappointed by President Gerald Ford, serving until 1976. He was later chairman of the Richard M. Nixon Foundation.
In January 1977, former President Ford and Betty Ford move into home next to Firestone at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, which later lead to the foundation of the Betty Ford Center.
Inspired by a 10-year local weather study, Firestone and two neighboring ranchers developed vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley, California in 1972. Firestone plants 250 acres (1.0 km2) of vines, including 60 acres (240,000 m2) of Chardonnay.
In 1975, his son Brooks decided to leave the family business, and relocate his family to the Santa Ynez Valley: "I am the classic executive dropout. I spent 12 years in the tire business, and I finally decided my soul wasn’t there." In partnership with his father, he founds the first commercial winery to crush grapes in Santa Barbara County. The vineyard served as the basis for the major development as California as a global source of wine.
Firestone was a contributor to charities and served as president of the trustees of the University of Southern California and president of the World Affairs Council of L.A. He was a board member of several organisations.
Firestone took a particular interest in charities associated with alcohol abuse, and was cofounder of the Betty Ford Centre in 1982. He was also director of the National Council of Alcoholism and also the Eisenhower Medical Center. Firestone also served on the Advisory Board of the ABC Recovery Center and was a major contributor to the expansion at the ABC Center.
In 1932, he married Polly Curtis, by whom he had three children, including Brooks Firestone. Polly died in 1965 of cancer. He then married Barbara Knickerbocker Heatley on 4 March 1966. She died in 1985 of cancer as well. He married Caroline Hudson Lynch on 11 January 1987, the daughter of the co-founder of Merrill Lynch. His grandson is TV reality show personality Andrew Firestone.
Leonard Firestone's Timeline
June 10, 1907
Akron, Ohio, United States
December 24, 1996
Pebble Beach, California, United States