A Wall Street tycoon and presidential adviser, Baruch received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1958, for his support of a strong national defense.
"In World War I he was the symbolic and dynamic leader of America's defense-mobilization effort," National Commander John S. Gleason Jr. told delegates. "World War II proved how right and how prophetic he was. ... his seeming inexhaustible strength and increasingly wise counsel were enlisted without hesitation or reservation in the cause of victory and a just and lasting peace."
Too ill to attend the convention to receive his medal, Baruch sent Legionnaires a message about the importance of an adequate security and military preparedness. "Our failure to keep militarily strong cost us a heavy toll in precious lives and casualties in World War II and Korea," he wrote. "And our failure to adopt in time an effective mobilization program in both conflicts cost us not only countless billions of dollars but opened the way to the inflation which has for so long beset our economy."
From a bench in Lafayette Park across from the White House, the financial adviser saw the light that signaled him to come inside to confer with officials. A confidant to six presidents, "the Park Bench Statesman" offered economic advice during both world wars and beyond.
A native of South Carolina, Baruch spent his younger years in New York, taking every opportunity to learn the brokerage business. He bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and was already a millionaire at 30 through his speculation in the sugar market. His expertise earned him regular audiences with presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman.
In 1905, the Wall Street tycoon bought a South Carolina plantation. He spent much time there, hosting President Roosevelt on several occasions. He was a frequent donor to Democratic candidates and owned a string of thoroughbred racehorses.
On Baruch's 90th birthday, the National Park Service unveiled a commemorative bench in Lafayette Park in honor of "the Park Bench Statesman." He continued to offer his advice until his death in 1965, at 94.
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