M. Larry Lawrence
|M. Larry Lawrence|
|United States Ambassador to Switzerland|
February 9, 1994 – January 9, 1996
|Preceded by||Joseph Bernard Gildenhorn|
|Succeeded by||Madeleine M. Kunin|
|Born||Maurice Larry Lawrence
August 16, 1926
|Died||January 9, 1996
|Resting place||El Camino Memorial Park, Sorrento Valley, San Diego|
|Occupation||Real estate developer|
Maurice Larry Lawrence (August 16, 1926 – January 9, 1996) was a United States Ambassador to Switzerland and real estate developer. In 1991, Forbes magazine named Lawrence among the 400 richest Americans and estimated his fortune at $315 million.
Lawrence was born in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, and moved to San Diego, California in 1953. He married Geraldine Slesnick in 1949, with whom he had three children. He was in his fourth marriage at the time of his death, to the former Sheila Davis from Brushfork, West Virginia. They had been married since June, 1990.
Lawrence has three daughters, a son and six grandchildren.
Education and early career
Lawrence attended Wilbur Wright College in 1945 and the University of Arizona from 1945 through 1947. A biography entry for Lawrence appeared in Who's Who indicating he had graduated from the University of Arizona in 1947 with a bachelor of arts degree. The University said, however, that Lawrence attended classes there for two years and played varsity football, but left without a degree.
Real estate career
San Diego millionaire John Alessio sold the deteriorating Hotel del Coronado to Lawrence in 1963. Lawrence's initial plan was to develop the land around the hotel and ultimately, to demolish it. Lawrence later changed his mind. During his tenure, Lawrence invested $150 million to refurbish and expand much of the hotel. He doubled its capacity to 700 rooms. He added the Grande Hall Convention Center and two seven-story Ocean Towers just south of the hotel. The Lawrence family sold the hotel to the Travelers Group after his death in 1996.
Lawrence's first involvement in politics was his work in the 1948 Adlai E. Stevenson II gubernatorial campaign in Illinois. He continued his political activities in California, gaining power and influence in Democratic political circles as a campaign contributor and fund-raiser.
He was a delegate to Democratic National Convention from California in 1964, 1968 and 1972.
In October 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced his intention to nominate Lawrence to be U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and his intention to appoint Shelia Davis Lawrence to be Special U.S. Representative to the World Conservation Union. He was confirmed as ambassador in March 1994.
In 1994, the Federal Election Commission ruled that Lawrence exceeded a $25,000 limit on the amount an individual can give to help finance an election campaign in one year. As a result, he was fined $7,179, the amount of his excess contributions. In a letter to the commission, Lawrence said he was unaware that some of his 1987 contributions counted toward the 1988 total.
Death and burial
Lawrence died at age 69 in Bern, Switzerland on January 9, 1996. He had suffered from leukemia and dyscrasia, a blood disorder. Richard Holbrooke, assistant secretary of state, wrote a letter praising Lawrence and requesting burial for him at Arlington National Cemetery. This was granted by Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. and the waiver request was approved by the Arlington superintendent.
Questions were raised in 1997 about the life of Lawrence, and President Clinton ordered an investigation into whether Lawrence had lied about his military service in World War II. Congressional investigators searched military records and could not corroborate Lawrence's claims of wartime service in the Merchant Marine, or his alleged rank of "Seaman, First Class" or presence during the torpedoing of the ship SS Horace Bushnell. On December 12, 1997, at the request of Lawrence's widow, his body was disinterred and brought to California. He was then buried in the El Camino Memorial Park, Sorrento Valley, San Diego
- Armstrong, A.C.; Vitale, S.A.; Who's Who Historical Society (Calif.). Who's who in California 13. Who's Who Historical Society. ISSN 0511-8948. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
- San Diego Union-Tribune Obituary at the Wayback Machine (archived November 23, 2002); Jack Williams – Staff Writer; January 10, 1996
- Body of Envoy To Be Removed From Arlington, NY Times, December 9, 1997
- Williams, Jack (10 January 1996). "M. Larry Lawrence". The San Diego Union-Tribune. p. A-1. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- "Historic Hotel del Coronado acquired by Travelers affiliate". findarticles.com (Business Wire). 1996-09-12. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- White House Press Release; October 25, 1993
- State Department file - Lawrence; Office of the Historian
- Ambassador Is Fined for Excess Donations, NY Times, March 8, 1994
- "New Questions About Envoy Who Is Buried at Arlington". NY Times. December 6, 1997. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
- Body, and Tombstone of Lies, Are Removed, NY Times, December 12, 1997
- M. Larry Lawrence at Find a Grave