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Nicholas Kelley


Centurion, 1922–1965

Born 12 July 1885 in Zurich, Switzerland

Died 28 October 1965 in Teaneck, New Jersey

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Proposed by Edward C. Henderson and Chester H. Aldrich

Elected 6 May 1922 at age thirty-six

Archivist’s Note: Birth surname “Wishnewetsky”

Century Memorial

Nick Kelley has always lived in an atmosphere of practical sociology. As a child he absorbed from his mother an understanding of social welfare and the problems of both the worker and the consumer. A deep interest in these things took the late Florence Kelley into a crusade for just child labor laws and the work of the National Consumers League of which she was an organizer. Later, his daughter, Administrative Judge Florence Kelley, of the Family Court of the State of New York, continued this environment.

“He was a lovely man,” says a Centurion friend, “with a fine sense of proportion, just the sort of lawyer that The Century should have as a member.” He was just the sort of lawyer, too, that a hard-boiled community like New York City should have in the midst of its civic activities. He helped immigrants and refugees into a new life through the American Council for Nationalities Service; he served the Henry Street Settlement, the Carnegie Corporation, the National Civil Service League, and the National Consumers League with selfless attention.

Nicholas Kelley was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1885 and was brought to the United States in infancy. He graduated from Harvard College in 1905 and from the Harvard Law School in 1909. He began practice with the New York firm of Cravath, Henderson and de Gersdorff. During the First World War, he was the government’s appeal agent to the draft board of New York City and a member of the Treasury Department’s war loan staff. At war’s end, he became Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of loans to foreign governments. He entered the labor-management field in 1934 as the industry member of the Automobile Labor Board and was credited with helping to carry out an agreement that had averted a strike in the automotive industry.

In 1937, he became general counsel for the Chrysler Corporation and, soon after, its vice-president, a post he held until his retirement in 1957. He was a director of the Legal Aid Society, president of the Practicing Law Institute, and a trustee of several colleges and universities.

Nick Kelley was a Centurion for forty-three of his eighty years.

Roger Burlingame
1966 Century Association Yearbook