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Thomas W. Lamont


Centurion, 1910–1948

Full Name Thomas William Lamont

Born 30 September 1870 in Claverack, New York

Died 2 February 1948 in Boca Grande, Florida

Buried Brookside Cemetery, Englewood, New Jersey

Proposed by George A. Plimpton and S. Sidney Smith

Elected 5 February 1910 at age thirty-nine

Archivist’s Note: Father of Austin Lamont and Thomas S. Lamont; brother-in-law of John Palmer Gavit; grandfather of Lansing Lamont

Seconder of:

Century Memorial

Thomas William Lamont. [Born] 1870. Newspaperman, banker.

It is not given to many men that the Poet Laureate of England shall write their obits in The Times of London, yet it could not have been more fitting than that John Masefield wrote American Tom Lamont’s. “No American of the last half century,” said Masefield, “has shown more fully the wonderful power America has of making a complete man. He was equipped and great in many ways. He lived with enjoyment.”

Whether from awe, or admiration, or envy of his banking achievements it is easy to forget that Lamont was a complete man. He was, indeed, equipped and great in many ways. He did, indeed, live with enjoyment to the end—from the days as a Methodist minister’s son living in a succession of Hudson River towns, he learned to read and enjoy, to give and enjoy, to live gently in the joy of friendship and respect.

And it is no wonder then that this man—whose father never had an income of $1,200 a year but who had a houseful of books, educated his three children and never gave less than one-tenth to the Lord—that this man when disposing of his estate by Will gave ten millions chiefly to education—two million to his college Harvard—in addition to the millions he had given in his lifetime.

The story would be incredible were it not true. While at Exeter he talked his father out of one dollar to make a trip with the football team to play Andover, but the dollar, “so hard come by in the parsonage income” gave him an “uncomfortable feeling” and he paid it back “by splitting kindling for 15 cents an hour.”

But this was in America and a man of his character and ability does not split much kindling at 15 cents an hour. After Harvard he got a job on the New-York Tribune, chiefly in the financial department. Then there was a period in the importing and exporting business. But at forty he was a partner in J. P. Morgan and Company, who talked on terms of equality with the great of the earth—some of whom became his friends and all of whom yielded him respect as a man as well as a banker.

Lamont was indeed a great banker. He had an important part in financing American business and railroads before and after the First World War, in financing the Allies before our country entered that War, and in financing European reconstruction after the Armistice. He took a leading part in the attempt to solve the financial and economic problems of China and Japan over a long period of years. He was imaginative and constructive in his approach to every undertaking. He was resourceful and indomitable in troubled times.

But Lamont himself never got the love of newspapers and books and magazines out of his blood. He was financially interested at one time or another in the New York Evening Post, the Saturday Review of Literature and Collier’s. He wrote many articles and book reviews and made many speeches on national and international problems, political and economic. Lamont was an omnivorous reader, and he had the accurate memory of a good reporter.

He loved his family and enjoyed his friends and never forgot them. Many people, school friends and college friends, neighbors in town and country, educators and philanthropists, his partners and employees, poets and bankers and statesmen, big and little people, at home and abroad, loved him and admired him and had reason to be grateful to him for inspiration and for sympathy and help in need. As Masefield said, “he lived with enjoyment.” Throughout his life, he wrote, he felt each day a secret gladness in his heart, that he was embarking on a new day of adventure, and looking forward to fresh enterprise.

He was modest, efficient, unworldly, vastly generous to causes and persons, and somehow in the rush and excitement of great affairs he never forgot to write the helpful note or to aid the old friend of earlier days who was in trouble. He had a sixth sense for helpfulness. To many he was a generous older brother. He was simple, wise, devoted, solicitous, watchful, dependable, with a smiling genuine gratitude for the little things others did for him, completely forgetting the great things he was doing for them.

Source: Henry Allen Moe Papers, Mss.B.M722. Reproduced by permission of American Philosophical Society Library & Museum, Philadelphia

Henry Allen Moe
Henry Allen Moe Papers, 1948 Memorials