About Thomas William Lamont, Jr.
Thomas William Lamont, Jr. (September 30, 1870 – February 2, 1948) was an American banker.
Lamont was born in Claverack, New York. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1888, where he was editor of the school newspaper, the The Exonian.
At Harvard College, he became first freshman editor of The Harvard Crimson. He was also able to work for the Albany Evening Journal, Boston Advertiser, Boston Herald, and New York Tribune while at Harvard. He graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1892. He met his wife, Florence Corliss, at the 1890 Harvard commencement. He started working under the city editor for the New York Tribune two days after he graduated fom Harvard in 1892. He married Florence on October 31, 1895 in Englewood, New Jersey.
He began working in business for Cushman Bros., which later became Lamont, Corliss, and Company, and turned it into a successful importing and marketing firm.
Starting in the late 1910s, for many years, he financed the Saturday Review of Literature.
J. P. Morgan
On January 1, 1911, he became a partner of J.P. Morgan & Co., and served as a U.S. financial advisor abroad in the 1920s and 1930s. During the 1919 Paris negotiations leading up to the Treaty of Versailles, Lamont was selected as one of two representatives of the United States Department of the Treasury on the American delegation. At that time, he was a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. He played a leading role for Morgan in directing both the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan.
He was one of the most important agents for the Morgan investments abroad. He was an unofficial mentor to the (second) Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt administrations.
Lamont later undertook a semiofficial mission to Japan in 1920 to protect American financial issues in Asia. However, he did not aggressively challenge Japanese efforts to build a sphere of influence in Manchuria; indeed, he supported Japan's non-militaristic politics until late into the 1930s.
Lamont was the chairman of the International Committee of Bankers on Mexico, for whom he successfully negotiated the De la Huerta-Lamont Treaty. He continued to chair the committee into the 1940s, through a series of renegotiations of Mexico's foreign debt.
In 1926, Lamont, self-described as "something like a missionary" for Italian fascism, secured a $100 million loan for Benito Mussolini. Despite his early support, Lamont believed the Second Italo-Abyssinian War was outrageous.
On September 20, 1940, fascist police shocked Lamont by arresting Giovanni Fummi, J.P. Morgan & Co.'s leading representative in Italy. Lamont worked to secure Fummi's release. Fummi was released on October 1st, and went to Switzerland.
Wall Street Crash
On Black Thursday in 1929, Lamont was acting head of J.P. Morgan & Co. In an attempt to stop the panic, he organized Wall Street firms to inject confidence back into the stock market through massive purchases of blue chip stocks.
Following the reorganization of J.P. Morgan & Co. in 1943, Lamont was elected chairman of the board of directors.
Lamont became a generous benefactor of Harvard and Exeter once he had amassed a fortune, notably funding the building of Lamont Library. At the end of World War II, Lamont made a very substantial donation toward restoring Canterbury Cathedral in England. His widow, Florence Haskell Corliss donated Torrey Cliff, their weekend residence overlooking the Hudson River in Palisades, New York, to Columbia University. It is now the site of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Upon Florence's death, a bequest established the Lamont Poetry Prize.
Lamont died in Boca Grande, Florida, in 1948. His son, Corliss, was a philosophy professor at Columbia University and an avowed socialist. Another son, Thomas Stilwell Lamont, was later vice-chairman of Morgan Guaranty Trust and a fellow of the Harvard Corporation. A grandson, Lansing Lamont, was a reporter with Time Magazine from 1961-74. He published several books, including You Must Remember This: A Reporter’s Odyssey from Camelot to Glasnost about his experiences covering the important events of the time, including the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Another grandson, Thomas William Lamont II, served in the submarine service on the USS Snook and died when the submarine sank in April, 1945. Thomas Lamont's great-grandson, Ned Lamont, was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate from Connecticut in 2006.