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James S. Rockefeller, 102; Olympic Rower Led Bank That Became Citigroup

August 11, 2004|From Associated Press

James Stillman Rockefeller, the oldest-known U.S. Olympic medal winner and the former head of the bank that became Citigroup, died Tuesday. He was 102.

Rockefeller had a stroke on Thursday, said his grandson, Stillman, who lived with him at his home in Greenwich, Conn.

Records of the U.S. Olympic Committee show that Rockefeller was the oldest American medal winner, a USOC spokeswoman said.

He was the captain of Yale University's eight-man rowing team with coxswain that won gold at the 1924 Paris Olympics -- beating the Canadian team by less than 16 seconds. Another member of the crew was Benjamin Spock, a junior at Yale who later became a pediatrician and wrote a renowned book on child care.

The oars from the winning race and the gold medal were prominently displayed in Rockefeller's house, his grandson said.

"I think he was really proud of that -- probably more than the bank career," his grandson said.

Stillman Rockefeller attributed his grandfather's long life to his regimented lifestyle: breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., cocktails at 6 p.m. (always a rye with water), and dinner promptly at 7 p.m. He liked plain food, without sauces or cheese, and plenty of fresh vegetables, including those grown in the garden of his estate.

Rockefeller was in good health until shortly before he died. He continued to drive his car until last year and would review documents from the various charities and businesses he helped lead, his grandson said.

Rockefeller, born June 8, 1902, was a grandson of William Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil with his brother, John D. Rockefeller.

He graduated from Yale in 1924 and served in the Airborne Command during World War II.

Rockefeller started at National City Bank in 1930, following his uncle and grandfather, who were leaders of the bank.

He became president in 1952, chairman in 1959 and retired in 1967.

In 1955, under Rockefeller's leadership, the bank merged with the First National Bank of New York.

The company later changed its name to Citicorp and became Citigroup in a 1998 merger with Travelers Group.

Rockefeller also was a director of numerous companies, including Pan American Airways, Northern Pacific Railroad, NCR and Monsanto, and served on the boards of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the American Museum of Natural History.

Rockefeller and his wife, Nancy Carnegie Rockefeller, who died in 1994, had four children.

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