Last modified on September 12, 2021, at 20:56

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller.jpg
41st Vice-President of the United States
Term of office
December 19, 1974 - January 20, 1977
Political party Republican
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Gerald Ford
Succeeded by Walter Mondale
Born July 8, 1908
Died January 26, 1979
New York City
Spouse Mary Todhunter Clark
Margaretta Fitler Murphy, known as Happy Rockefeller
Religion Baptist

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, often called Rocky (July 8, 1908 – January 26, 1979), was the Vice President of the United States under U.S. President Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977. He was also governor of New York from 1959 to 1973. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1960, 1964, and 1968 against the more conservative choices, Richard M. Nixon and Barry Goldwater. A liberal Republican, Rockefeller was allied with with former Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York City, who later turned Democrat, and U.S. Senator Jacob Javits, considered the most liberal of all the Senate Republicans.

Early life

Born in the resort city of Bar Harbor, Maine, Rockefeller was reared in New York City. In 1930, he graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He married Mary Todhunter Clark on June 23 of that year, a few days after his graduation. Together they had five children. He divorced her in 1962 and the following year married Margretta Fitler Murphy, by whom he had two sons remained married to her until his death. After the marriage she was known as Happy Rockefeller.

In 1961, Rockefeller's son, Michael Rockefeller, was eaten by cannibals in Papua, New Guinea.[1]


He was also a prominent businessman , the son of industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), and the grandson of Standard Oil's founder and owner John D. Rockefeller. He was also the maternal grandson of USA Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island. He was an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II and headed the office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA).

After the war he continued as an adviser to Democratic President Harry Truman and helped him to develop anti-communist geopolitical programs during the Cold War such such as Point Four. He also was an adviser to President Dwight Eisenhower.


In 1958 he won his party's nomination to be governor of New York and proceeded to win the general election against Democratic incumbent William Averill Harriman (1891-1986) in an otherwise heavily Democratic year. He unsuccessfully sought his party's presidential nomination in 1960 but withdrew from the race when it became clear that Richard Nixon already had more than enough committed delegates to win the nomination. He campaigned for Nixon in the general election campaign, but Nixon lost to the Democrat John F. Kennedy, who also won the electoral votes of New York.

In 1964, Rockefeller again sought the Republican presidential nomination but victory went to Senator Goldwater of Arizona. Neighboring Governor William Scranton of Pennsylvania tried to stop Goldwater's nomination after Rockefeller's candidacy died with defeat in the California presidential primary. Rockefeller backed Goldwater in the general election, but with more caution than he had supported Nixon. Jacob Javits, however, refused to endorse Goldwater, with whom he disagreed on many issues. Despite the endorsement, Rockefeller refused to publicly campaign with Goldwater. The 1964 returns were devastating to New York Republicans. Democrat Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the slain John F. Kennedy, unseated the liberal Republican Senator Kenneth Barnard Keating (1900-1975).

In 1968 Rockefeller again sought his party's presidential nomination but trailed far behind Nixon, who went on to defeat Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

Later life

He then supported Nixon wholeheartedly in the general election. After Nixon resigned because of the Watergate affair and Vice President Ford became president, the new president appointed Rockefeller vice president, before there was a competition between Rockefeller and George Herbert Walker Bush to persuade Ford to select them.[2] Rockefeller was replaced by Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as the party's vice presidential nominee in 1976 because of opposition by conservatives to Rockefeller. He campaigned for Ford and Dole, but after the campaign he retired. He died of a heart attack in 1979.


The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: 1908-1958: Worlds to Conquer by Cary Reich.


  1. 53 years ago, a Rockefeller son was eaten by cannibals, By Carl Hoffman, Jan 30, 2015.
  2. Parmet, Herbert George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankee pages 168-171