Alfred H. Gordon: Banker who foresaw the 1929 Wall Street Crash and ran the London Marathon at 81
Wednesday 10 June 2009
Albert H. Gordon was one of the last surviving American bankers to have been deeply involved in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. He had foreseen some of its disasters and had been invited to join the almost bankrupt firm of Kidder Peabody before he was 30. He was the senior partner by 1931 and a dominant force there for 65 years. He was instrumental in opening the first overseas office, in London in 1956, co-operating with the well-established firm of Cazenove, and its second office in Hong Kong in the same year. Energetic in all his business dealings,he favoured early air travel, thereby often reaching potential clients before his land-travelling rivals.
He was a keen anglophile and became a friend and benefactor to many British causes and institutions. He completed the London Marathon at the age of 81 and he was known to have walked from his apartment in Gracie Square, New York to La Guardia airport in one direction and, on a more regular basis, to Wall Street in the other. He surprised an English friend when he was 93 by taking a day trip to Atlanta, Georgia, alleging that he was only imitating the ancient Roman custom of producing a senior citizen at important meetings even when they were dead.
When the Trollope Society was created in the mid-1980s, he was, as an admirer and collector of Anthony Trollope's first editions, the natural choice to preside over its American branch. He attended Society dinners on both sides of the Atlantic, coming in 1998 to present John Major with a copy of The Prime Minister in its original parts. Ten years earler he had acquired a complete set of Trollope's novels which had been inscribed to the author's elder son, Henry. In 2007 the set was donated to the Fellows' Library at Winchester College, where Trollope had been, somewhat unhappily, at school.
In Winchester Gordon was an extraordinary benefactor both to the Cathedral, where he helped to create the Triforium Gallery, and the College, where he contributed on a considerable scale to the restoration of the Chantry Cloisters, to the 15th Century Muniment Room where the College Archives are stored and to the new squash courts. He was awarded an honorary OBE in 2001. Modest in his outlook and lifestyle, Al Gordon was an inspiration to his friends. That he happily survived until he was within two months of his 108th birthday was his crowning achievement.
John Saumarez Smith
Albert Hamilton Gordon, banker, benefactor and book collector; born North Scituate, Massachusetts 21 July 1901; married Mary Rousmaniere (died 1980, three sons, two daughters); died 1 May 2009.
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