John Davison Rockefeller, Jr.

A composition narrative by D. A. Sharpe




John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. is the third great grandnephew of Johann Philip Rockefeller and Catherina Sharp Rockefeller, my third great grand uncle and aunt.  John, Jr., was the only son of his family.  He did have three sisters older than him

He was quite a significant philanthropist, following in the path that his wealthy father had created.  For example, he donated $8,500,000 to buy land for the United Nations headquarters in New York City.  In addition, he built Rockefeller Center in New York City.  He provided funds to restore historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.


Just two or three weeks after the birth of John Davison Rockefeller, Jr., on Feb. 17, 1874, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the American industrialist who built International Business Machines, Inc. (I.B.M.), was born.  He died on June 19, 1956, just about a year before I went to work in November 1957 for the company he founded.  My work with that firm was as a half-time student, 1957-1958, and as a full time employee 1962-1969.




"He was a philanthropist and a member of the prominent American Rockefeller family.  In biographies, he is invariably referred to as "Junior" to distinguish him from his more celebrated father.


"He was the third child and only son of John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., founder of Standard Oil, and one of the wealthiest Americans who has ever lived.  He attended The Browning School in New York City and then Brown University. He briefly joined his father's business. During the Great Depression he funded the building of Rockefeller Center, and, as a result, became one of the largest real estate holders in New York City.


"In 1921, he received about 10% of the shares of the Equitable Trust Company from his father, making him the bank's largest shareholder.  Subsequently, in 1930, the Equitable merged with the Chase National Bank, now JP Morgan Chase, and it became at that time the largest bank in the world.  Although his stockholding was reduced to about 4% following this merger, he was still the largest shareholder in what became known as the "Rockefeller bank."   As late as the 1960's his family still retained about 1% of the bank's shares, by which time his son David had become the bank's president.  By the way, in 2017, that is the bank in which our seemingly modest checking account is placed!  ItŐs a privilege to be associated with such grandeur!


"In a celebrated letter to Nicholas Murray Butler in June 1932, subsequently printed on the front page of The New York Times, Junior, a lifelong teetotaler, argued against the continuation of the Eighteenth Amendment on the principal grounds of an increase in disrespect for the law. This letter became considered by many the singular event that pushed the nation to repeal Prohibition.


"However, he is most remembered for his philanthropy, dramatically expanding the institutions founded by his father, including the Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller University and the International Education Board.  An internationalist, he financially supported programs of the League of Nations and helped fund the formation of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in 1921.


"He also funded the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary's Wren Building, both in Virginia. Through his son, Nelson, he bought and then donated the land in Manhattan upon which the United Nations headquarters was built.


"He was also instrumental in the development of the research that led to Robert and Helen Lynd's famous Middletown Studies work that was conducted in the city of Muncie, Indiana.


"He had a special interest in conservation, and purchased and donated land for many American National Parks, including Grand Teton (see Snake River Land Company), Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, and Shenandoah.  Both the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway that connects Yellowstone National Park to Grant Teton National Park, and the Rockefeller Memorial in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, were named after him.  He was also active in the movement to save the redwood trees, making a significant contribution to Save-the-Redwoods League in the 1920s to enable the purchase of what would become the Rockefeller Forest in Humboldt Redwoods State Park."




John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. was a Baptist Church member, and graduated from Brown University with an A.B. degree.   He was awarded the Public Welfare Medal in 1943.



Offered by:

Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe

805 Derting Road East

Aurora, TX 76078-3712



Biographical Sketch Information