Leonard E. Read (1898-1983) was the founder of FEE, and the author of 29 works, including the classic parable “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read.” Born in Michigan, his early life was marked by hard work and diligent study. After serving in the armed forces during World War I, he began a wholesale grocery business, and later became manager of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
As the New Deal began, Read became a vocal critic of policies limiting freedom and expanding government. This drive prompted him to found FEE in 1946. It was the first pro-freedom think tank in the United States. FEE immediately served as a sanctuary for dissident intellectuals such as Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman. It came to serve as an important intellectual infrastructure for the promotion of the freedom philosophy through lectures, seminars, books, and The Freeman magazine.