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George Foster Peabody


Centurion, 1902–1938

Born 27 July 1852 in Columbus, Georgia

Died 4 March 1938 in Warm Springs, Georgia

Buried Trask Cemetery, Saratoga Springs, New York

Proposed by Edward M. Shepard and Abram S. Hewitt

Elected 5 April 1902 at age forty-nine

Seconder of:

Century Memorial

In look and in spirit there was much of the old South in George Foster Peabody. His strong, erect figure, with his long hair, heavy mustaches and pointed beard, might have stepped out of a Civil War album. So equally might his chivalric zest for good causes have stemmed from the gallantry of Southern ante-bellum days. But if his courtliness and soft speech bespoke his birthplace in Georgia, there was Massachusetts stock in the founding of his family and, coming to New York at the age of thirteen, his whole long and successful career as a banker was centered in this city and in the North. When he made his renunciation of Wall Street in the year 1906, at the age of fifty-four, it was from this city that he directed the broad and unending stream of philanthropy which flowed from his generous hands. In later years he came to pass more and more time either at Saratoga Springs or in Georgia and it was in the spring and fall that the Century Club knew him best. There he would foregather over such matters as Hampton Institute—perhaps first in his affections among all the institutions to which he contributed so lavishly of effort and money—and enjoy the companionship of the Frissells, H. B. and A. S., and other close friends. He showed a lively interest in everything that concerned the Club and appreciated keenly the rare personalities among the Club’s servants—as, indeed, do all good Centurions. It would be possible to see a Quixotic quality in his intellectual outlook. He was an intimate friend and admirer of Henry George; the governmental ownership of railroads and the commodity dollar alike appealed to him; and shrewd and searching as was his skill as a banker and in the organization and direction of great properties, he was impulsively humanitarian. There, indeed, stood the core of his character and the explanation of his career that took him out of business, cleanly and finally, in the prime of life and dedicated thirty-two years of his life to good works. The Negroes, and the members of every other underprivileged group, became his first care. The catalogue of his philanthropies is as long as it is moving; yet he gave his personal interest and thought to every cause that he made his own whether a college or a struggling genius. It was typical of his wholeheartedness that, a staunch Democrat and liberal, he was not only active in the life of his party but was an inveterate letter writer to the newspapers. He wrote frequently and at length to the New York Times in behalf of the causes and candidates whom he adopted as his own—notably in defense of President Wilson and of the New Deal. Few Centurions can have lived a richer, fuller, or happier life.

Geoffrey Parsons
1938 Century Memorials