Picker began his career by following in his father's footsteps. In 1935 he started with Columbia Pictures, where his father had been an executive, and worked his way up the company's ladder to become head of international distribution. He then joined United Artists where in the 1960s he was made an executive vice president. His motion picture career ended and political career began when President Lyndon B. Johnson named him to the International Commission on Education and Cultural Affairs.
In 1972, Picker served as the finance chairman of Senator Edmund S. Muskie's Presidential campaign and in 1976 he worked as a top fundraiser for Henry M. Jackson's campaign. Picker was so effective as a liberal advocate that he was singled out by President Richard M. Nixon's reelection strategists as the top target of a list of 20 people on Nixon's Enemies List. This list came to light during the Watergate scandal. Picker was elected mayor of Golden Beach in 1979.
Although his career in the motion picture industry ended in the 1960s, Picker continued to be an active force in the field. He helped establish the Washington-based American Film Institute. He later served as chairman of the board of the National Center for Jewish Film. The center at Brandeis University is dedicated to restoring Yiddish film classics. He also helped found the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center based at Florida International University.
- Fowler, Glenn (October 11, 1989). Arnold M. Picker Is Dead at 76; Film Executive Was Fund-Raiser. New York Times