Robert S. Brookings

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Robert S. Brookings

Robert Somers Brookings (January 22, 1850, Cecil County, Maryland – November 15, 1932, Washington, D.C.) was an American businessman and philanthropist, known for his involvement with Washington University in St. Louis and his founding of the Brookings Institution.


Brookings grew up on the Little Elk Creek in Cecil County, near Baltimore, Maryland. At age 17, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri to join his brother Harry as an employee of Cupples & Marston, wholesale dealers in household goods. By 1872, Robert and Harry Brookings had become partners in the firm, and it prospered under their management.

In 1895, Brookings, now financially secure, decided to leave the day-to-day management of the company and focus on charitable and philanthropic endeavors. He became chairman of the board of trustees of Washington University, remaining on the board for the rest of his life and donating over $5 million to the school in cash and property. The university's administration building, Brookings Hall, is named for him.[1]

Brookings Hall, often an icon of Washington University in St. Louis, is named for Brookings

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Brookings to the War Industries Board, and later named him chairman of its Price Fixing Committee. In this role, he was the liaison between the U.S. government and many different industries. Brookings was awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and the Order of the Crown of Italy for his wartime work.

In 1916, Brookings established the Institute for Government Research, an independent organization dedicated to political study. He later founded an Institute of Economics and a graduate school of public policy. In 1927, these three entities were merged into the Brookings Institution, which remains one of the leading think tanks in the United States.

Brookings wrote three books: Industrial Ownership (1925), Economic Democracy (1929), and The Way Forward (1932). He died in 1932 in Washington, D.C. and is buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.


  1. ^ Brookings Hall and Biography, Washington University

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