Eugene Isaac Meyer responded to our country's call for help in World War I by selling his business and becoming a dollar-a-year-man in Washington, D.C. He served on many committees dealing with the war effort. Meyer was born on October 31, 1875, in Los Angeles, the son of Harriet and Marc Meyer. He studied at the University of California for a year. His family then moved to New York City, where his father accepted a partnership in the banking firm of Lazard Freres, a prestigious international institution.
Eugene received an A.B Degree from Yale. His father gave him $600 to stop smoking, a lofty sum at the time. Eugene quit smoking and shrewdly invested his money until he had accumulated $50,000, which he used to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Meyer was quick to take advantage of investing opportunities. In the stock market crisis of 1901, he started buying stock at cheap prices, making millions by taking advantage of many panic-selling situations. By the time he was 40, Meyer had accumulated about $60 million.
Meyer was one of the major organizers of Allied Chemical Co. He also exerted great influence in the copper mining and automobile industries.
On February 12, 1910, he married Agnes Elizabeth Ernst. One of their five children was Katherine Meyer Graham, who managed his communications empire, which included WTOP-TV, The Washington Post and Newsweek.
Meyer's reputation for getting things done reached President Woodrow Wilson, who appointed him director of the War Finance Corporation in 1918. When the war ended, he continued in this position, using the agency to help farmers who were experiencing a postwar depression. In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge asked Meyer to clean up the Federal Farm Loan Board, which was wracked with scandals. President Herbert Hoover recognized Meyer's ability, and in 1930 he appointed him a governor of the Federal Reserve Board.
Meyer left public office in 1933 because he did not approve of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies. In the same year, he bought The Washington Post. His inexperience at publishing cost him money at first, until he learned the business and the newspaper became a money maker and a proud institution.
He became the first president of the World Bank in 1946 at the urging of President Harry Truman. However, he was very unhappy in this role and when he completed his task of setting up the bank he resigned the post to return to his communication group, becoming chair- man of The Washington Post. Meyer expanded his communication investments with the purchase of WJXT-TV, in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Washington Times-Herald in 1954. He died on July 17, 1959, in Washington, D.C.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.