Clarence Dillon

Clarence Dillon (September 27, 1882 – April 14, 1979)[1] was an American financier, and namesake of Dillon, Read & Co., an investment bank. In 1957, Fortune Magazine listed Dillon as one of the richest men in the United States, with a fortune then estimated to be from $150 to $200 million.[2]

Clarence Dillon
Clarence Lapowski

(1882-09-27)September 27, 1882
DiedApril 14, 1979(1979-04-14) (aged 96)
Citizenship United States
EducationWorcester Academy
Alma materHarvard University
Occupationinvestment banker
EmployerDillon, Read & Co.
Anne McEldin
(m. 1908; her death 1961)
ChildrenC. Douglas Dillon
Dorothy Dillon Eweson
Parent(s)Samuel Lapowski
Bertha Stenbock

Early life

Clarence Dillon was born Clarence Lapowski. His parents were Bertha Stenbock (1862–1951) and Samuel Lapowski (1848–1912), who emigrated to the United States. Dillon's father was a Polish Jewish immigrant, likely born at Łomża, Poland in 1848. His paternal grandparents were Joshua Lapowski and Paulina Dylion, the daughter of Michel Dylion, a Frenchman.[3][4]

In 1878, his father went to San Antonio, Texas and married Bertha Stenbock one year later. Stenbock was born 1862 in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of Gustav Stenbock, a Swedish immigrant, who was prospecting for lead and silver in the Colorado Western Slope.[3] In 1884, the family moved to Abilene, Texas. They became naturalized citizens in the Abilene District Court, on September 25, 1891, legally changing the family name to Dillon on September 17, 1901.[5] Clarence's father died in San Francisco, California, on June 23, 1912 and his mother died in New York City, on January 1, 1951.[6][7]

Dillon graduated from Worcester Academy, located in Worcester, Massachusetts and one of the country's oldest day-boarding schools, and then Harvard University in 1905.[8]


In 1912, Dillon met William A. Read, founder of the Wall Street bond broker firm William A. Read & Company through an introduction by his Harvard classmate, William A. Phillips. Dillon joined Read's Chicago office in that year, later moving to the firm's New York office in 1914. Following Read's death in 1916, Dillon bought a majority interest in the firm and was chosen to head the company.[1] In 1921, the company's name was changed to Dillon, Read & Co.[9][10]

In 1921, Dillon focused on the beleaguered Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company which was in receivership. He succeeded in crafting a settlement with Goodyear's bankers, creditors, and stockholders as was raising more than $100 million in funding in an extremely difficult credit market. In 1925, only four years later, Dillon bought the Dodge Brothers Company for $146 million in cash which was the largest such transaction in industrial history at the time. After the acquisition of Dodge, Dillon merged the company with the Chrysler Corporation in 1927 resulting in Chrysler's becoming one of the Big three in the automobile industry.[1]

A number of Dillon, Read & Co. partners served in senior roles in government, including Dillon and his right-hand man, James Forrestal, who served as Secretary of the Navy, and later, Secretary of Defense. During World War I, Bernard Baruch, Chairman of the War Industries Board, (known as the Czar of American Industry) asked Dillon to be Assistant Chairman of the War Industries Board.[1]


Dillon was a Francophile both because he had French origins and for his own personal tastes. In 1929, he purchased an apartment in Paris where he stayed a part of each year until he was well into his 80s.[11] An oenophile as well. Dillon negotiated for months to purchase Château Haut-Brion from Bordeaux businessman André Gibert who had controlled the French wine producer since 1923. Dillon ultimately made the acquisition on May 13, 1935 for 2,300,000 francs. Dillon made Seymour Weller, who was the son of his wife's sister, president of the new company, Société Vinicole de la Gironde, (later Domaine Clarence Dillon). Weller retired as President of the company in 1975. Dillon is said to have purchased Château Haut-Brion because it was his favorite wine. However Haut-Brion is also near Bordeaux, and good riding and hunting land surrounds the estate.[12][13][14]

Clarence purchased show dog Fontclair Festoon from Dody Jenkins. This dog would go on to win best-in-show at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1959. The dog was handled by Anne Rogers Clark.[15]

Personal life

On February 4, 1908, Dillon married Anne McEldin Douglass (1881–1961)[lower-alpha 1] in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Anne was the daughter of George Douglass and his wife and second cousin Susan Virginia Dun.[16] Together, Clarence and Anne were the parents of a son and daughter:

  • Clarence Douglass Dillon[lower-alpha 2] (1909–2003), who served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1961–65 and the U.S. Ambassador to France who married Phyllis Chess Ellsworth in 1931. After her death in 1982, he married Susan Sage in 1983. They remained married until his death in 2003.[3]
  • Dorothy Anne Dillon (1913–2005),[17] who married Philip Elsworth Allen in 1934.[18][19] After their divorce,[6] she married Dr. Sydney Shepherd Spivack (1907–1969), a sociologist,[20] in 1965.[21] After his death in 1969, she married Eric Eweson in 1976, who died in 1988.[6]

Dillon died on April 14, 1979 at his home in Far Hills, New Jersey.[1]


  1. Anne was born on September 26, 1881 in Peoria, Illinois and died on November 8, 1961 in Far Hills, New Jersey
  2. The second "s" was later dropped from his middle name.[3]
  1. Clark, Alfred E. (15 April 1979). "Clarence Dillon, Financier, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  2. Geisst, Charles, ed. (2006). "Dillon Read & Co". Encyclopedia of American Business History. Retrieved January 15, 2016.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. Pace, Eric (January 12, 2003). "C. Douglas Dillon Dies at 93; Was in Kennedy Cabinet". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  5. Katharyn Duff, Abilene ... On Catclaw Creek (1969), p. 133
  6. Perez, Robert C.; Willett, Edward F. (1995). Clarence Dillon: A Wall Street Enigma. Madison Books. p. 139. ISBN 9781461713838. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  8. "C. Douglas Dillon, former Treasury secretary and Harvard overseer, dies at 93". Harvard University Gazette. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University News Office. January 16, 2003. Archived from the original on 2003-03-13. Retrieved 2009-03-25. Dillon and his father, Clarence Dillon '05, also established the Dillon Field House Endowment.
  9. "BANKING FIRM CHANGES.; William A. Read & Co. Dissolves and Dillon, Read & Co. is Formed" (PDF). The New York Times. January 14, 1921. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  10. "William A. Read (1858 - 1916)". Central Trust Company of New York. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  11. Agnès Lascève. "Bordeaux: Haut-Brion". France Today magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  12. "A Heritage of Excellence". Domaine Clarence Dillon. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  13. "Château Haut-Brion, a Family Affair" (PDF). The World of Fine wine. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 15, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  14. Frank J. Prial (June 19, 1985). "Wine Talk". The New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  15. "Tributes to Anne Rogers Clark". Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  16. For her ancestry, see Harry Wright Newman, A Branch of the Douglas family with its Maryland & Virginia connections (New York: Doubleday, 1967).
  17. "Paid Notice: Deaths EWESON, DOROTHY DILLON". The New York Times. 12 June 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  18. "DOROTHY DILLON'S BRIDAL; Banker's Daughter to. Wed Philip E. Allen on Monday". The New York Times. 26 April 1934. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  19. "DOROTHY A. DILLON BECOMES A BRIDE; Daughter of Banking Firm's Head is Married to Philip Elsworth Allen. SIMPLE HOME CEREMONY Evelyn Hollingsworth and D. P. Williams Jr. Attend Couple Dr. Darlington Officiates". The New York Times. 1 May 1934. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  20. "DR. SYDNEY SPIVACK, A SOCIOLOGIST, 61". The New York Times. 28 July 1969. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  21. "MRS. ALLEN MARRIED TO SYDNEY SPIVACK" (PDF). The New York Times. September 16, 1956. Retrieved 9 March 2018.

Further Reference

  • Geisst, Charles R. (2002) The Last Partnerships: Inside the Great Wall Street Money Dynasties (McGraw-Hill) ISBN 978-0071413176
  • Perez, Robert C. and Edward F. Willett (1995) Clarence Dillon, a Wall Street enigma (Madison Press Books) ISBN 9781461713838
  • Sobel, Robert (1991) The Life and Times of Dillon Read (The Penguin Group) ISBN 978-0525249597
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