Alfred "Al" Fleishman (June 16, 1905 – May 28, 2002), was co-founder, with business partner Robert Hillard, of Fleishman-Hillard, the St. Louis-based public relations firm that began in a rented room above a Woolworth’s store and has grown to become one of the world’s largest public relations agencies. In the process, Fleishman earned a reputation not only as one of the pioneers of public relations, but also as an author, educator, humanitarian, and champion of the state of Israel.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Fleishman was born June 16, 1905, and studied at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, before being inducted into the U.S. Army. As a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he spent World War II primarily as a Pentagon-based public information officer. He traveled to war-torn Germany in October 1945. Sent by the American Jewish Congress as a special consultant to the Secretary of Defense, he headed a survey committee that studied the psychological, economic and social needs of displaced people in Germany and Austria.
Jewish Community Work
In that capacity, he was an early eyewitness to the horrors of the Holocaust, and his research and subsequent report alerted many organizations in the United States to the forgotten people of World War II – the displaced Jews. Upon completion of his report, Fleishman made a 60-city U.S. lecture tour, discussing these refugees’ relief and rehabilitation needs. The trip influenced his life as he became deeply involved in various Jewish causes and with minority affairs. A longtime member of the Assembly of the Jewish Agency in Israel, Fleishman made 57 visits to Israel between 1955 and 1997, becoming a personal friend of many of the founders and leaders of the state.
After completing his military duty, Fleishman was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services in the rehabilitation of World War II combat casualties and amputees. Among his accomplishments in that role was putting together a widely distributed publication called “Coming Home.” He also received the Americanism Medal from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Partnership with Hillard
Upon his return from Europe in 1946, Fleishman wasted no time in forming his business partnership with Bob Hillard. The two had known each other for more than a decade, dating back to when Fleishman had served as chief deputy to the city’s circuit clerk, and Hillard was a reporter for the St. Louis Star-Times. Fleishman served as the firm’s chairman until his retirement in 1975 at the age of 70. In 1996, he and co-founder Hillard received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Inside PR (now known as The Holmes Report).
In addition to his prominence in the public relations arena, Fleishman gained distinction in the field of General Semantics. He wrote three books on that subject – “Sense and Nonsense: A Study in Human Communication,” “Troubled Talk,” and “Dialogue With Street Fighters.” Each was recognized as Book of the Year by the International Society of General Semantics. He also was the author of numerous articles on public relations and human communication, and lectured extensively throughout the country.
Awards and honors
Fleishman received numerous awards and recognition over the years. Among them: the Distinguished Service Medal for Civic Achievement by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce; the Community Service Award and the Humanitarian Award from the St. Louis Human Development Corporation; and the Community Service Award from the American Jewish Committee.
Fleishman died in St. Louis in May 2002 at the age of 96.
- O'Neil, Tim (2002-05-29). "Fleishman-Hillard Co-Founder Was Voice for the Powerful, Powerless". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- "Alfred Fleishman, 96, a Founder of a Public Relations Company". The New York Times. 2002-06-03.
- "Alfred Fleishman, co-founder of powerful public relations firm". Associated Press. 2002-05-29.