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A. Trowbridge, 76; Commerce Chief in '67-68

April 29, 2006|From the Washington Post

Alexander B. "Sandy" Trowbridge, 76, a Commerce secretary during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration who spent a decade as president of the influential National Assn. of Manufacturers, died Thursday at his home in Washington.

His family said he had suffered from Lewy body disease, a brain disorder combining some of the most debilitating characteristics of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Trowbridge held executive positions with Esso Standard Oil before joining the Commerce Department in 1965 as assistant secretary for domestic and international business. He was Commerce secretary in 1967 and 1968, succeeding John T. Connor.

Connor, who became chairman of Allied Chemical Corp., recruited Trowbridge to the corporate giant as vice chairman and heir apparent in the mid-1970s. At the time, Trowbridge was president of the Conference Board, a New York-based consumer research organization.

At Allied, Trowbridge played a major role in planning the response to a massive lawsuit arising from the company's illegal dumping of Kepone, an ingredient used in pesticides, into Virginia's James River. The dumping occurred before Trowbridge's arrival at Allied, but he was instrumental in devising a settlement of more than $5 million and millions more for a state environmental fund.

A skilled lobbyist, he was nonetheless overlooked in 1979 for the Allied chairmanship. In part, he was said to lack a thoroughly aggressive manner at a time when the company was smarting from continued lawsuits over the Kepone spill, a noticeable decline in profits and strikes affecting some of the operations.

In 1980, Trowbridge became president of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, and he was regarded as a low-key leader of the conservative organization. He was largely involved in fund-raising efforts but also spoke out about tax reform and deficit reduction.

He left the trade group in 1990 to form a business consulting firm, Trowbridge Partners.

Alexander Buel Trowbridge Jr. was born in Englewood, N.J., on Dec. 12, 1929. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Princeton University.

He was a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War and a recipient of the Bronze Star. He also served briefly in the Central Intelligence Agency before starting his career in the petroleum industry.

Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Eleanor Kann Hutzler Trowbridge of Washington; three children from his first marriage, Stephen C. Trowbridge of Dallas, Corrin S. Trowbridge of Redwood City, Calif., and Kimberly Parent of Greenwich, Conn.; two stepchildren, Barbara Verdaguer of Mousterlin, France, and Charles Hutzler of Beijing; a sister, Julie Cullen of Brooklin, Maine; a stepsister, Joya Cox of McLean; and nine grandchildren.

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