Winthrop Aldrich Rockefeller

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Winthrop Aldrich Rockefeller

Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Death: February 22, 1973 (60)
Palm Springs, Riverside County, California, United States (Cancer)
Immediate Family:

Son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abigail "Abby" Greene Rockefeller (Aldrich)
Ex-husband of Barbara 'Bobo' Sears Rockefeller and Jeannette Katherine Rockefeller
Father of Winthrop 'Win' P. Rockefeller
Brother of Abby 'Babs' Rockefeller; John D. Rockefeller III; Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, 41st Vice President of the USA; Laurance Spelman Rockefeller and David Rockefeller, Sr.

Occupation: Governor of Arkansas
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Winthrop Aldrich Rockefeller

Winthrop Rockefeller (May 1, 1912 – February 22, 1973) was a politician and philanthropist who served as the first Republican Governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction. He was a third-generation member of the Rockefeller family.

Early life

Winthrop Rockefeller was born in New York to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and 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 (1931–34) 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.

In early 1941, he enlisted in the Army. As a soldier of the 77th Infantry Division, he fought in World War II, advancing from Private to Colonel. He earned a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Clusters and a Purple Heart for his actions aboard the troopship USS Henrico, after a kamikaze attack during the invasion of Okinawa. His image appears in the Infantry Officer Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Personal life

On 14 February 1948, he married Jievute Paulekiute, an actress and model who had worked professionally under the names "Eva Paul" and "Barbara Sears," and popularly known as "Bobo." She was the former wife of Boston Brahmin figure Richard Sears, Jr.[citation needed] The wedding took place in Florida, and at the reception, a choir sang Negro spirituals. Seven months later, Jievute gave birth to Rockefeller's only child, Winthrop Paul.

The couple separated in 1950 and divorced in 1954. The dissolution of the marriage was acrimonious, with suggestions that Rockefeller owned an extensive collection of pornography. Jievute claimed that the $1 million trust fund set up for Winthrop was unworthy of a Rockefeller heir. She eventually received a $5.5 million settlement composed of $2 million in cash and a $3.5 million trust fund for herself and Winthrop. She was later engaged to Charles W. Mapes, Jr., but never married him.

On 11 June 1956, he married Seattle-born socialite Jeanette Edris; Rockefeller was her fourth husband.[6] She left her first husband, Nate Barragar, less than three months after they were married. The couple had no children, and divorced in 1971.

Move to Arkansas

Rockefeller moved to central Arkansas in 1953 and established Winrock Enterprises and Winrock Farms atop Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton.

In 1954, Republican Pratt C. Remmel polled 37 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial general election against Democrat Orval Eugene Faubus. It was a strong showing for a Republican candidate in Arkansas. Twelve years later, Rockefeller would build on Remmel's race and win the governorship for the Republican Party.

In 1955, Faubus named Rockefeller chairman of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC).

In 1956, Rockefeller married his second wife, Jeanette Edris Barrager Bartley McDonnell (1918–1997), a native of Seattle, Washington State. She had previously been married to a professional American football player, a lawyer, and a stockbroker. By her, WR acquired two stepchildren, Bruce Bartley and Ann Bartley, later Ann McNeil of San Francisco.

Rockefeller initiated a number of philanthropies and projects for the benefit of the people of the 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.

First political campaigns

In 1960, Rockefeller did not seek the governorship but instead raised funds for the Republican nominee, Henry M. Britt, a conservative lawyer from Hot Springs, the seat of Garland County. Britt barely polled 30 percent of the vote in his loss to Faubus. In 1962, he similarly supported Willis Ricketts, another in a long line of failed Republican candidates who sought to topple Faubus.

Rockefeller resigned his position with the AIDC and conducted his first campaign for governor in 1964. His campaign was ultimately unsuccessful against the powerful Faubus, but Rockefeller had energized and reformed the tiny Republican Party and had set the stage for the future.

When Rockefeller made his second run in 1966 only 11 percent of Arkansans considered themselves Republicans. But Arkansans had tired of Faubus after six terms as Governor and as head of the Democratic "machine." Democrats themselves seemed to be more interested in the reforms that Rockefeller offered in his campaign than "winning another one for the party." An odd coalition of Republicans and Democratic reform voters catapulted Rockefeller into the Governor's office. He defeated a segregationist Democratic Arkansas Supreme Court justice, James D. Johnson of Conway, who preferred the appellation "Justice Jim". Ironically, years later, Johnson would switch to the Republican Party.

In a surprise, Rockefeller's running-mate for lieutenant governor, Maurice L. Britt, a decorated World War II veteran and a former professional football player, was narrowly elected to the second-ranking post over the Democrat James Pilkington.

Other Rockefeller running-mates, such as former Democratic State Representative Jerry Thomasson of Arkadelphia, who sought the office of attorney general in 1966 and 1968, and Mrs. Leona Troxell of Rose Bud in White County, who ran for state treasurer in 1968, were defeated.

Only three Republicans won election to the 100-member Arkansas House of Representatives at the time of Rockefeller's first victory: George E. Nowotny, Jr., of Fort Smith, Danny L. Patrick (1941–2009) of Madison County, and James "Jim" Sheets of Siloam Springs in Benton County. Two Republicans sought U.S. House seats on the Rockefeller ticket in 1966, John Paul Hammerschmidt, the outgoing party chairman won in the northwestern Third District, and A. Lynn Lowe, a Texarkana farmer who would serve as party chairman from 1974–1980, lost in the southern Fourth District race to the Democrat David Pryor.

At the time Winthrop became Governor of Arkansas, his brother Nelson was already Governor of New York, and remained so throughout Winthrop's four years in office. They are often erroneously cited as the first two brothers to be governors at the same time, but they were actually the third case of this; the previous instances were Levi and Enoch Lincoln from 1827 to 1829, and John and William Bigler from 1852 to 1855. More recently, George W. and Jeb Bush were both governors from 1999 to 2000.

He also ran for the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination as a favorite son, receiving 18 votes at the national convention. It was the only time in the 20th century that two brothers' names (Nelson ran as well) were placed in nomination at the same time.

Governor of Arkansas

The Rockefeller administration enthusiastically embarked on a series of reforms but faced a hostile Democratic legislature. Rockefeller endured a number of personal attacks and a concerted whispering campaign regarding his personal life.

Rockefeller had a particular interest in the reform of the Arkansas prison system. Soon after his election he had received a shocking State Police report on the brutal conditions within the prison system. He decried the "lack of righteous indignation" about the situation and created the new Department of Corrections. He named a new warden, academic Tom Murton, the first professional penologist Arkansas had ever had in that role. However, he fired Murton less than a year later, when Murton's aggressive attempts to expose decades of corruption in the system subjected Arkansas to nationwide contempt.

Rockefeller also focused on the State's lackluster educational system, providing funding for new buildings and increases in teacher salaries when the legislature allowed.

In 1967, Rockefeller named an FBI agent, Lynn A. Davis, to head the state police with orders to halt illegal gambling in Hot Springs. After sensational raids against the mobsters, Davis was forced out as police director 128 days later when the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that he did not meet the strict 10-year residency requirement for the appointment. Democratic lawmakers refused to change the rule to allow Davis to serve. The Hot Springs raids were the No. 1 news story in Arkansas in 1967 as determined by the Associated Press.

At the 1968 Republican National Convention, Winthrop Rockefeller received backing from members of the Arkansas delegation as a "favorite son" presidential candidate. He received all of the Arkansas's delegation's 18 votes; his brother Nelson, then concluding a major presidential bid, received 277.

Rockefeller won re-election in November 1968, having defeated Marion H. Crank (1915–1994), a state legislator who had won the Democratic nomination in a heated fight with Virginia Morris Johnson, wife of Jim Johnson and the first woman ever to seek the office of governor of Arkansas. Newly reelected, Rockefeller proposed tax increases to fund additional reforms and his second term began on January 14, 1969. Rockefeller and the legislature dueled with competing public-relations campaigns and Rockefeller's plan ultimately collapsed in the face of public indifference. Much of Rockefeller's second term was spent fighting with the opposition legislature.

With Rockefeller's reelection, the Republicans won a rare seat in the Arkansas State Senate with the election of Jim R. Caldwell of Rogers in northwestern Arkansas.

Throughout the Rockefeller administration, the state Republican Party chairman was the attorney Odell Pollard of Searcy in White County, who once said that he and Rockefeller agreed on everything.

Racial politics

During this term Rockefeller quietly and successfully completed the integration of Arkansas schools that had been such a political bombshell only a few years before. He established the Council on Human Relations despite opposition from the legislature. Draft boards in the state boasted the highest level of racial integration of any U.S. state by the time that Rockefeller left office.[citation needed] When he entered office, not one African-American had served on a draft board in the state.

In 1970, it was disclosed that Rockefeller had maintained a list of militants for use by law enforcement to prevent potential disorders on Arkansas college and university campuses. The list drew opposition from some of his opponents, including an unsuccessful Democratic primary hopeful, state House Speaker Hayes McClerkin of Texarkana. McClerkin argued that the list may have contained the names of those who merely disagreed with Rockefeller politically.

End of the Rockefeller era

In the 1970 campaign, Rockefeller expected to face Orval Faubus, who led the old-guard Democrats, but Dale Leon Bumpers of Charleston in Franklin County rose to the top of the Democratic heap by promising reforms. Bumpers' charisma and "fresh face" were too much for an incumbent Republican to overcome. Rockefeller lost his third-term bid, but he caused the Democrats to reform their own party. The Republicans were reduced to a single member of each legislative chamber, as Danny Patrick, elected with Rockefeller, went down to defeat in Madison County.

As a dramatic last act, Governor Rockefeller, a longtime death penalty opponent, commuted the sentences of every prisoner on Arkansas's Death Row and urged the governors of other states to do likewise. Thirty-three years later, in January 2003, Illinois' lame duck governor, George Ryan, would do the same, granting blanket commutations to the 167 inmates then sentenced to death in that state.

Before he left office, Rockefeller appointed a young public administrator, Jerry Climer, to the vacant post of Pulaski County clerk. Two years later, Climer ran for secretary of state. He later founded two Washington, D.C.-based "think tanks." and left office on January 12, 1971.

In 1972, Rockefeller persuaded Len E. Blaylock of Perry County, his former welfare commissioner known for expertise in government administration to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Blaylock lost to Bumpers by an even greater margin than had Rockefeller in 1970. Rockefeller that year also supported the unsuccessful candidacy of Wayne H. Babbitt, a North Little Rock veterinarian who became the only Republican ever to challenge the reelection of U.S. Senator John L. McClellan.

Rockefeller hired as a $300-a-month secretary Judy Petty, who went on to serve two terms in the state legislature and to carry the Republican standard twice in races for Congress.

In September 1972, Rockefeller was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the pancreas and endured a devastating round of chemotherapy. When he returned to Arkansas the populace was shocked at the gaunt and haggard appearance of what had been a giant of a man.

Winthrop Rockefeller died February 22, 1973, in Palm Springs, California, at the age of sixty. He is buried at Winrock Farms, his ranch, in Morrilton, Arkansas. Oddly, Jeannette Rockefeller also died in Palm Springs, where she had resided since the divorce. She was seventy-nine.


The legacy of Winthrop Rockefeller lives on in the form of numerous charities, scholarships, and the activities of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The foundation provides funding for projects across Arkansas to encourage economic development, education, and racial and social justice. In 1964, he founded The Museum of Automobiles on Petit Jean Mountain, which after his death in 1973 was given to the Arkansas State Parks system and a non-profit organization was formed to run it; in March 2007 the Charitable Trust pledged $100,000 for its ongoing operations if the museum raised an equal amount by the end of 2007.

Rockefeller's political legacy lives on in both the Republican and Democratic parties of Arkansas, both of which were forced to reform due to his presence in Arkansas politics.

Rockefeller was the subject of the December 2, 1966 cover of Time magazine.

Winthrop Rockefeller's son Winthrop Paul "Win" Rockefeller served as Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas (having been elected in a special election in 1996, he won two full four-year terms in 1998 and 2002). Like his father, Win Rockefeller's political career was cut short by a devastating cancer.

The Winrock Shopping Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is named for Rockefeller, as he developed it in a relationship with the University of New Mexico, the owners of the property on which the shopping center was built.

During his tenure as Chairman of Colonial Williamsburg, Winthrop was a frequent visitor at the foundation's Carter's Grove Plantation eight miles away in James City County, Virginia. He is credited with helping develop a plan with Gussie Busch in the early 1970s to turn portion of the large tract of undeveloped land between the two points into the massive Anheuser-Busch (AB) investment there, which included building a large brewery, the Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park, the Kingsmill planned resort community, and McLaws Circle, an office park. AB and related entities from that development plan now are the source of the area's largest employment base, surpassing both Colonial Williamsburg and the local military bases.

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Winthrop Aldrich Rockefeller's Timeline

May 1, 1912
New York, New York, United States
September 17, 1948
New York, New York, United States
February 22, 1973
Age 60
Palm Springs, Riverside County, California, United States