Born in 1915 and youngest son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Descendant of the German-Jewish Roggenfelder family which came to the United States in 1722.
Attended school in New York City and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English history and literature from Harvard University in 1936. This was followed with a Ph.D. (1940) in economics from the University of Chicago and a study at both Harvard and the London School of Economics.
Married Margaret "Peggy" McGrath in September 1940 and they raised six children, including son David Rockefeller Jr. Along with his brothers - John D. III, Nelson, Laurance, and Winthrop, David Rockefeller established the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) in 1940.
Became a trustee of The Rockefeller Institute (later transformed into a university) for Medical Research in 1940. Trustee Rockefeller University 1940-1995. Secretary to New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia 1940-1941.
Assistant regional director of the United States Office of Defense, Health and Welfare Service 1941-1942. Enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. Military Intelligence officer in North Africa and Southern France 1942-1945. Set up an intelligence network in Algiers and was an insider to the battle between Charles De Gaulle and Henri Giraud for control over the French resistance. First became friends with William Paley (Pilgrims) and C.D. Jackson in Algiers. Met with ambassador Robert Murphy, a staunch Giraud supporter. Met David Bruce in 1945, head of the OSS. He would meet Bruce and his wife again in 1973 in China, where he would be invited for dinner.
Assistant Military Attaché in Paris in the last 7 months of the war. Joined Chase National/Manhattan Bank in 1946 as an assistant manager under Winthrop W. Aldrich (Rockefeller intermarried) in the Foreign Department. Assistant manager in the Foreign Department, Chase National Bank 1947-1948. David Rockefeller, 'Memoirs', pg. 149:
"I received a visit one morning in early spring 1947 from the new president of the Carnegie Endowment for International peace... After the usual pleasantries Hiss told me I had been elected to the board of the Carnegie Endowment, and he hoped I would agree to serve... I was flattered to be asked to join the Endowment's prestigious board, which included such luminaries as General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM. John Foster Dulles, the eminent international lawyer, was chairman... I had known him and his family since my college years. Foster had a reputation of being cold, austere, and puritanical, but the man I knew had a sense of humor and could be a wonderful companion. His daughter Lillias had been part of a small group of friends during my college years and one of Peggy's closest friends. In fact, when I was courting Peggy in the 1930s, she always stayed with the Dulleses at their New York town house. When I mentioned Hiss's offer to Nelson, he told me in confidence that a high-level FBI official had warned him there was reliable information indicating Hiss was a Soviet agent. I reported this to Foster, who said he didn't believe it... I accepted his judgment and joined the endowment's board in May 1947. A year later the spy charges against Alger Hiss would become front-page news."
Played a major role in the development of the Morningside Heights neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as president (1947-1957) and then chairman (1957-1965) of Morningside Heights, Inc.
Second vice president Chase National Bank 1948-1949. Director of the Museum of Modern Art 1948-1958. Vice president Chase National Bank 1949-1952. Vice-president Council on Foreign Relations 1950-1970. Chairman of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research 1950-1975.
In 1953, at this position, he recruited Detlev W. Bronk as president of the Rockefeller Institute and head of its medical research program. Bronk, a biophysicist, appeared on the initial membership list of the MJ-12 study group. Senior vice president of Chase National Bank with responsibility for supervising the economic research department and customer relations in the metropolitan New York area, including all the New York City branches 1952-1955.
Attended the first Bilderberg meeting in 1954 and was one of its founders. When Chase National and the Bank of the Manhattan Company merged in 1955, David Rockefeller was appointed an executive vice president in charge of the bank development department. In 1957, he became vice chairman of the Board of Directors with responsibility for the administrative and planning functions of the bank as a whole.
Briefly chairman of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1958. Again chairman of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1962-1972, and again in 1987-1993. Life trustee of the University of Chicago (which his grandfather helped to establish) and an honorary trustee of International House (New York), established by his father. In 1958 David Rockefeller helped establish the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (D-LMA), serving as its chairman 1958-1975. 2002, David Rockefeller, 'Memoirs', pg. 448-449:
"In late 1959 we were guests of Stavros [1001 Club] and Eugenie Niarchos for a week's sail through the Aegean aboard their three-masted schooner, The Creole... I had met Stavros six years earlier when he came to Chase's headquarters for a business meeting... Even though Stavros and I had little in common, we developed a good personal relationship and became business partners in many real estate deals in the United States, including the purchase of Rockefeller Center.... Our friends Jack [H.J. Heinz II; Pilgrims Society and Bilderberg organizer] and Drue Heinz of Pittsburgh were also on that 1959 voyage, as were Hans (Heini) Heinrich and Fiona Thyssen-Bornemisza [1001 Club], whom we met for the first time. Heini was the grandson of the famous August Thyssen, the "Rockefeller of the Ruhr," founder of Germany's Vereinigte Stahlwerke... Our cruise brought out the fact that we were all interested in art... The following May ... we all flew to Lugano to spend the weekend with the Thyssens. When we arrived at Heini's home, the Villa Favorita, we were awestruck... It was the most beautiful private [art] collection we have ever seen."
Primary founder of the Dartmouth Conferences in 1960, which was initiated at Dartmouth College in an effort to prevent U.S.-Soviet nuclear conflict. Only influential private citizens with no government positions were supposed to meet here. President Chase Manhattan 1961-1969. David Rockefeller, 'Memoirs':
"Given the similarity in our interests, I was disappointed that Jack [John J. McCloy] and I never developed a close personal relationship... Frequently at gatherings I attended, Jack related the story of his first contact with my family. He had worked his way to college and law school in part by tutoring during the summer and had travelled to Maine in the summer of 1912, three years before I was born, hoping to get a job on Mount Desert Island. One of the families he decided to contact was mine... [he was] turned away... Nelson [Rockefeller] reportedly told him the "family had used its influence" to make him chairman and that one of his jobs was to ensure that "David would succeed him when he retired." It seems quite possible that Nelson made the comment or one quite similar to it. He could be quite high-handed and no doubt thought he was doing me a favor. But if Nelson made a statement of this kind, it certainly was not the result of a family decision or a request from me. It would have been highly inappropriate for anyone in the family to make such a demand. Unfortunately, if the story was true, it may have permanently altered Jack's attitude toward me... Quite possibly Jack could never look at me without remembering the long, dusty walk up the hill in Seal Harbor and the big wooden door being closed quietly but firmly in his face."
In 1962, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began plans to build the World Trade Center, which was pushed hard for by David and Nelson Rockefeller. Founding member of the Commission on White House Fellows, 1964. David had a two and a half hour meeting in Moscow with Nikita Khrushchev in the summer of 1964. He reported to president Johnson that Khrushchev would like to do more trade with the United States and David recommended that more credit should be extended to the Russians. Met Khrushchev's successor, Leonid Brezhnev, soon afterwards. Also met Chou En-lai in the 1960s, to discuss economic cooperation. Other leaders David met with are Deng Xiaoping, Nasser, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, the Shah of Iran, etc. David is on very good terms with Nelson Mandela and they regularly meet each other. It's interesting to note that Mandela is one of George W. Bush's fiercest critiques (critics?).
Instrumental in the formation of the International Executive Service Corps and chairman 1964-1968. Founder Americas Society in 1965 (then called Council of the Americas). Helped found the Rockefeller Family Fund in 1967. Helped form The Business Committee for the Arts in 1967. 2002, David Rockefeller, 'Memoirs', pg. 413:
"Bilderberg overlapped for a time with my membership in a relatively obscure but potentially even more controversial body known as the Pesenti Group [likely Le Cercle]. I had first learned about it in October 1967 when Carlo Pesenti [Vatican sponsored; Banco Ambrosiano shareholder], the owner of a number of important Italian corporations, took me aside at a Chase investment forum in Paris and invited me to join his group, which discussed contemporary trends in European and world politics. It was a select group, he told me, mostly European... Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, and Konrad Adenauer were founding members of the group, but by the time I joined, they had been replaced by an equally prominent roster that included Antoine Pinay... Giulio Andreotti... and Franz-Josef Strauss... The discussions were conducted in French, and usually I was the sole American present, although on a few occasions when the group assembled in Washington, Henry Kissinger, at the time President Nixon's national security advisor, joined us for dinner. Members of the Pesenti Group were all committed to European political and economic integration, but a few - Archduke Otto of Austria... Monsignor Alberto Giovanetti of the Vatican and a prominent member of Opus Dei... and Jean-Paul León Violet... - were preoccupied by the Soviet threat and the inexolerable rise to power of the Communist parties of France and Italy. Pesenti set the agenda for our thrice-yearly meetings, and Maître Violet, who had close connections with the Deuxième Bureau of the Services des Renseignements (the French CIA), provided lengthy background briefings. Using an overhead projector, Violet display transparency after transparency filled with data documenting Soviet infiltration of governments around the world and supporting his belief that the threat of global Communist victory was quite real. While all of us knew the Soviets were behind the "wars of national liberation" in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, I was not personally convinced the Red Menace was quite as menacing as Maître Violet portrayed it to be, but my view was a minority one in that group. Even though I found some of the discussions fascinating, the ultraconservative politics of some participants were more than a bit unnerving. My Chase associates, who feared my membership could be construed as "consorting with reactionaries," eventually prevailed upon me to withdraw."
Chairman and CEO of the board of Chase Manhattan 1969-1981. Chairman Council on Foreign Relations 1970-1985. In May 1973 Chase Manhattan Bank opened it Moscow office at 1 Karl Marx Square, Moscow. Chairman of the Overseas Development Council of the US-USSR Trade and Economic Council, Inc., which was founded in 1973. Founder of the Trilateral Commission in 1973.
2002, David Rockefeller, 'Memoirs', pg. 207: "We [Chase; mid 1970s] approached three banks in the Rothschild Group. Since both Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of L.M. Rothschild, and Leon Lambert, chairman of Banque Lambert (a Rothschild through his mother), were personal friends, I had positive initial conversations with them."
Chairman Trilateral Commission 1977-1991. Founded the New York City Partnership in 1979 and was chairman 1979-1988. Chairman Chase Manhattan Bank Advisory Committee 1981-1999. Trustee Carnegie Endowment International Peace since 1981. President of the Harvard College Board of Overseers; life trustee of the University of Chicago; one of the most important members of the Bilderberg committee; visitor of the Bohemian Grove Stowaway camp; member American-Australian Association; chairman Americas Society 1981-1992; chairman Rockefeller Group 1981-1995.
Helped to establish the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University in 1994. Chairman of Rockefeller Center Properties 1996-2001; became a director of the Shinsei Bank in 2000; chairman Rockefeller University; chairman of the Museum of Modern Art; member International Council of J.P. Morgan Chase; wrote 'Unused Resources and Economic Waste' (1940), 'Creative Management in Banking' (1964), and 'Memoirs' (2002); major shareholder of Atlantic Richfield Petroleum and International Petroleum Corporation (also a napalm manufacturer).
David is the last of the "Fortunate Five" brothers. Winthrop died in 1972 after having been devastated by a chemotherapy procedure; John D. III died in a 1978 car crash; Nelson died in 1979 in bed with his mistress. Laurance died in 2004 of natural causes. David and Laurance were members of the Peace Parks foundation. David has attended meetings of Le Cercle and is a member of the Pilgrims Society.