A Tribute to Philanthropy


“On June 28, 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition was surveying a portion of the Louisiana Purchase territory that is now southwestern Montana. When the party came to a confluence of three rivers that flowed into the Missouri, Captain Meriwether Lewis was moved to honor his mentor, President Thomas Jefferson, by naming one of the rivers after him.

(He christened the other two after James Madison, Jefferson’s Secretary of State, and Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury.) A few weeks later, they encountered other tributaries flowing into the newly named Jefferson River. Lewis designated them Wisdom and Philanthropy—which he described as two of Jefferson’s “cardinal virtues.” The Philanthropy River later came to be called Stinking Water, but today bears the more salubrious name of Ruby River.

Source: The story of this remarkable journey of exploration and the naming of the rivers is told in Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (New York: Touchstone, 1997).”

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy. 

Image via Mike Cline, Wikipedia Commons.

Elridge W. McMillan

14_Elridge McMillan“In 1990 Elridge W. McMillan became the first African American trustee of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. He also was the first African Americanpresident of the Southern Education Foundation and the first African American chair of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, on which governing body he served for more than thirty-four years. As a former trustee of Clark College (his alma mater), he co-chaired the Trustee Committee that was responsible for the consolidation of Clark and Atlanta University (1987–89). McMillan was also appointed to the Center for Civil and Human Rights Global Advisory Board and is a past member of the University System of Georgia Foundation Board.

Source: SECF Archives; “Georgia’s Regent Emeritus to Be Honored by Atlanta Metropolitan State College,” Metro Atlanta CEO, September 25, 2018, http://metroatlantaceo.com/news/2018/09/georgias-regent-emeritus-be-honored-atlanta-metropolitan-state-college/.”

Image courtesy of CAU Photograph Collection, Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library. 

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.

Southern By Adoption


“The Knight Foundation became a “naturalized” Southern citizen when it relocated from Akron, Ohio, to Miami, Florida in 1990. Three years later it changed its name to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to honor the two brothers who built the highly successful newspaper chain that bore their last name.

Although a major national grant-maker with heavy emphasis upon journalism, it acquired and maintains an authentic Southern accent: two of its regional offices are in the South (Charlotte, North Carolina, and Macon, Georgia), and it also works through local community foundations to support programs in Bradenton, Palm Beach County, and Tallahassee, Florida; Columbus and Milledgeville, Georgia; Lexington, Kentucky, Biloxi, Mississippi; and Columbia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—all of which once had Knight or Knight-Ridder newspapers.

Source: http://www.knightfoundation.org


Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy. 


Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

Arthur Vining Davis. Image courtesy of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

The majority of SECF’s early members, described elsewhere in the book, had been in operation for two-to-four decades, but among the newer philanthropic enterprises were the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, established in 1965. They were created by Arthur Vining Davis, a Congregational minister’s son from Massachusetts and an 1888 Amherst College graduate, who went on to make a fortune as the de facto CEO and chairman, for nineteen years, of what became the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa).

After retiring to Florida at the age of eighty-two, he made a second fortune in real estate—including the development of Ponte Vedra. The family foundations are known primarily for their grant-making throughout the United States, especially to private institutions of higher education and graduate theological education. There is nothing stereotypically Southern about the foundations beyond their office location in Florida, but they have been highly valued supporters of the SECF since the beginning of the organization, reflecting additional credit upon the region’s philanthropy.

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.

Creation of Ford Foundation

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.

Another “Fizzy” Philanthropy Fund

“In 1905 Claud Hatcher, a pharmacist in Columbus, Georgia, introduced a new syrup, Royal Crown Ginger Ale. For a variety of reasons, what became Royal Crown Cola and is still bottled and sold, never achieved the national or international popularity of that other carbonated beverage from Georgia. The company, which for a period operated under the name Chero-Cola and then Nehi, managed to survive the Great Depression. Legend has it that DeWitt Clinton Pickett, a business associate, played a major role in saving the company from ruin.

When Hatcher died in 1933, he left a significant portion of his estate to establish a philanthropic endowment. Also according to legend, he honored Clinton by naming it the Pickett & Hatcher Educational Fund. Since then, this remarkable, revolving loan fund has awarded more than $100 million to college students nationally, but primarily from the Southeast.

Source: Alan Rothschild, “100 Years of Philanthropy in Columbus,” Columbus and the Valley (June 2016), 15-22.”

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy.

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans

“A large but very low-profile foundation in the South, despite being active in much of the region, is the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation. It provides scholarship assistance to deserving women at more than two hundred colleges and funds senior-care facilities for. elderly women. Letitia (“Lettie”) Pate, born into a prominent western Virginia family, married Joseph B. Whitehead, an attorney from Oxford, Mississippi. They settled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they had two sons. Whitehead and his colleague, Benjamin Thomas, secured the exclusive bottling rights for Coca-Cola, and in 1900, the Whiteheads relocated to Atlanta, where he opened a second bottling plant. His entrepreneurial and highly successful efforts to establish other bottlers around the South and the West was interrupted by his death six years later.

At the age of thirty-four, left with young children, Lettie Pate Whitehead, who had an acute business sense, took over the management of her late husband’s massive bottling and real estate holdings. Seven years later, she married Col. Arthur Kelly Evans, a retired Canadian Army officer. During their thirty-five-year union, they kept a home in Atlanta but also established a large estate, Malvern Hill, in Hot Springs, Virginia. Mentored by Robert W. Woodruff, whose family had acquired the Coca-Cola Company from the Asa Candler family, Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans prospered. Woodruff appointed her to the company’s board of directors—a position she held for almost twenty years—making  her one of the first women in America to serve on the board of a major corporation.

During her lifetime she and her sons gave away millions of dollars. She died in 1935, having outlived both her husbands and her sons. Her legacy includes three foundations, all managed by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation: the already-noted Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, and the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation

Source: lpwhitehead.org; authors’ correspondence with P. Russell Hardin.”

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy, out now.