Board of Trustees
The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc.
It is with deepest regret that we are compelled to note the passing of our founder and President, Leonard Read.
Leonard was born in rural Michigan just before the turn of the century. Farm chores plus clerking in the local store schooled him early in the work ethic.
Later, he earned his way through Ferris Institute, but interrupted his education to enlist in the army. The troopship, Tuscania, carrying him to Europe, was sunk off the Irish coast but Leonard made it to shore and served in England as a rigger with the air corps. After the war’s end he was with the army of occupation in Germany before returning to Michigan.
Back in Ann Arbor he started a wholesale produce business. Despite long hours and hard work the business proved unprofitable. Staring at the accumulated debts, Leonard figured that the market was trying to tell him something. As he decoded the message, the market was telling him to go to California, which he did in 1925, with his wife and two young sons. After a stint in the real estate business he became Secretary of the Burlingame Chamber of Commerce where he discovered that he had a knack for organization. Within a few years he had become the Manager of the Western Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
By this time the nation was experiencing the early years of the New Deal, which had the Chamber’s support, as well as the support of many businessmen—as well as such spokesmen as young Read.
A dramatic turn in Leonard’s life took place at this time. A prominent Los Angeles businessman was openly critical of the New Deal and of the Chamber for supporting it, so Read decided to set him straight. Instead, Bill Mullendore set Leonard straight, and the two men became lifetime friends.
Leonard expounded his freedom philosophy in a book entitled Romance of Reality, published in 1937. It was this book that persuaded the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest, to oppose the collectivist drift by intellectual methods, and that Leonard was the man they needed as General Manager. Leonard became a nationally prominent figure during his six years in Los Angeles, gaining the confidence of leaders in business and public life.
Read came to New York in 1945 as the Executive Vice-President of the National Industrial Conference Board, but continued to nourish a dream born a few years earlier—of an independent organization which would stand uncompromisingly for freedom and publish literature in the modern idiom. The Foundation for Economic Education was the result, and the rest is history.
Leonard has preached the gospel of freedom all over the world, travelling two and one half million miles by air and scores of thousands of miles by other means. He has written twenty- nine books and numerous articles. But FEE is the enduring witness to Leonard’s life.
Leonard’s philosophy is, basically, that of the Declaration of Independence, to which he added a dash of mysticism, some hard-nosed free market economics, spiced by a dash of native American go-getter spirit. Leonard has always shunned argument and debate, preferring instead to win over his readers by striking illustrations, parables, and stories. His lifelong devotion to human freedom amounted to an obsession. He sought a better understanding of freedom and worked to expound it with ever greater clarity and persuasiveness. The methodology he stressed was based on self-improvement—let each person work on himself and present society with one improved unit.
The Foundation for Economic Education was born out of Leonard’s original vision. It attests to the integrity and passion with which he served that vision; it is the monument by which he will be remembered—and that’s the way he would want it. Leonard stood tall, and FEE is his lengthened shadow.