One of my hobbies is genealogical research. On Thanksgiving Day this past year I came into possession of 3 boxes of my maternal Grandfathers papers. One box of old photos. One box of writings, notes, newspaper clippings and other sundries. One box of letters. I’ve spent the last couple months reading, scanning and re-reading these. It has been fascinating. I’ve also written to various libraries and archives to gather more information referenced or hinted at in the material I already have. This process is on-going.
My grandfather died just before my 9th birthday so while I have fond memories of him they are those of a child whose old and frail grandpa bounced him on his knee.
What I never had the chance to discuss or learn from him was the story of his life:
Milton primarily tended fruit trees.
The family was an old Quaker family that had been part of the great Quaker migration out of the south (North Carolina) prior to the Civil War. Milton’s parents were married outside of the Quaker Meeting and joined with the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Garfield however, attended Fairmount Academy, a Quaker School, where he found his heritage and joined the Religious Society of Friends and became an ardent Quaker. He attended Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana where he was a prize student.
He was a gifted public speaker winning the Indiana state prize and Midwest states contests two years running. He transferred to Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin, which then had the top public speaking department in the Midwest and perhaps the nation. He graduated Beloit class of 1917 along with my grandmother who he met there. They were married the following year.
He began his teaching career at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he was given the task of starting the schools department of public speaking. His time at Wabash was broken by service overseas. He was a conscientious objector and served with the newly formed (1917) American Friends Service Committee in relief and reconstruction work in France in lieu of military service.
He served in France just shy of a year from 1918-1919 before returning to Wabash. In 1920 he joined the faculty of what was then the School of Commerce and Administration at the University of Chicago.
He received his Ph.D. from the University in 1929 and was named Professor of Finance in 1930. When the Robert Law Professorship was established in 1936 he was named to it. In 1942 he became acting Dean of the School of Business and was formally named Dean in 1945. He resigned that position in 1952 after ten years and returned full time to teaching and research. He retired in 1958...
In addition to his duties at the University he was a founder in 1935 of South East National Bank in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. The area had been served by 12 banks prior to the bank failures of the early 30’s. There were no banks in the area when South East National was opened. He served as Chairman of the Board of the bank from its founding until his retirement in 1959.
He was a highly requested public speaker...
... and author contributing regularly to various business and finance journals. He was a speaker or moderator of several radio broadcasts on economic issues throughout the thirties and forties. He published a Business Forecast yearly and a review and re-forecast every half year. His dissertation was an analysis of then available business forecast services. This resulted in two publications for which he received national attention and praise, Forecasting Business Conditions (1927) with Charles O. Hardy, and An Appraisal of American Business Forecasts (1930).
He was a founding member and Clerk of the 57th Street Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. He served with the American Friends Service Committee since World War I. He was Chairman of the committee’s Midwest branch from 1946 to 1959 and served on the national committees executive board for many years.
He was a member of various fraternities and professional organizations serving as President of the American Finance Association and the Chicago Chapter of the American Statistical Association. He was also elected Spokesman of the Council of the Senate, the highest elective office at the University of Chicago. He was named a Trustee of Earlham College. He received honorary LLD’s from Beloit in 1946 and Earlham in 1963.
In March 1938 he contracted tuberculosis. He was literally bedridden for an entire year not sitting up in a chair again until March 1939.
He spent another half year or so recovering in Trudeau Sanitarium in upstate New York. He experienced recurrences of TB and related respiratory problems the rest of his very full life.
During his time at the University of Chicago he was a colleague of and friends with people such as Paul H. Douglas, Lloyd W. Mints, Jacob Viner, Frank H. Knight, Oscar Lange, Henry Simons, Samuel H. Nerlove, Albert G. Hart, Henry Schultz, Theodore Schultz, Aaron Director, Milton Friedman, and Edward H. Levi amongst many others.
I write this brief biography as an introductory to a handful of future posts regarding some of his very interesting writings on free market economics, peace from the Quaker perspective, and perhaps a few of the letters he wrote home from France during World War I and its aftermath.
Oh yeah... and I get to brag just a little bit about how cool my grandpa was. Did I mention that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947?