In 1936 Edsel Ford, president of the Ford Motor Company and the only son of Henry Ford, formed the Ford Foundation with a donation of $25,000—in part to avoid the extremely high inheritance taxes being imposed on large estates during the Great Depression. With a broadly conceived mission (“the advancement of human welfare”), and based in New York City, the Ford Foundation became a multibillion dollar global institution, and for a time was the largest foundation in the world. When Edsel Ford died in 1943 at the age of thirty- nine, he was succeeded as president of both the company and the foundation by his oldest son, Henry Ford II. The foundation soon became, and remains, an important benefactor to Southern institutions and programs.

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.

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