Barber Conable

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Barber Conable
Barber Conable.jpg
7th President of the World Bank
In office
Preceded by Alden W. Clausen
Succeeded by Lewis T. Preston
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 30th district
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1985
Preceded by David O'Brien Martin
Succeeded by Fred J. Eckert
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 35th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1983
Preceded by James M. Hanley
Succeeded by District eliminated
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 37th district
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Harold C. Ostertag
Succeeded by Thaddeus J. Dulski
Member of the New York State Senate
from the 53rd district
In office
Preceded by Austin W. Erwin
Succeeded by Kenneth R. Willard
Personal details
Born (1922-11-02)November 2, 1922
Warsaw, New York
Died November 30, 2003(2003-11-30) (aged 81)
Sarasota, Florida
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Charlotte Williams
Alma mater Cornell University
Cornell University Law School

Barber Benjamin Conable, Jr. (November 2, 1922 – November 30, 2003) was a U.S. Congressman from New York and president of the World Bank.


Conable was born in Warsaw, New York on November 2, 1922. Conable was an Eagle Scout and received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Cornell University in 1942, where he was president of the Quill and Dagger society and a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He then enlisted in the Marines and was sent to the Pacific front in World War II, where he learned to speak Japanese and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. After the war, he received his law degree from Cornell University Law School in 1948, where he lived at the Cornell Branch of the Telluride Association, having been admitted to the House as a law student, after an unsuccessful attempt as an undergraduate.[1] He later re-enlisted and fought in the Korean War.

In 1962, Conable was elected as a Republican to the New York State Senate. After only one term, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 from a Rochester-based district. He was reelected nine more times. He was known on both sides of the aisle for his honesty and integrity, at one point being voted by his colleagues the "most respected" member of Congress; he refused to accept personal contributions larger than $50. As longtime ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of his signal legislative achievements was a provision in the U.S. tax code that made so-called 401(k) and 403(b) defined-contribution retirement plans possible, and contributions to those plans by both employers and employees tax-deferred, under federal tax law.

A long-time ally of Richard Nixon, Conable broke with him in disgust after the revelations of the Watergate scandal. When the White House released a tape of Nixon instructing his Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman to obstruct the FBI investigation, Conable said it was a "smoking gun", a phrase which quickly entered the political folklore.

In 1980, Conable appeared in Milton Friedman's PBS documentary Free to Choose.[2]

Conable retired from the House in 1984. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed him president of the World Bank. His experience as a legislator proved crucial as he persuaded his former colleagues to almost double Congress's appropriations for the Bank. He retired in 1991.

In 1952, Conable married Charlotte Williams, his wife until his death. He died from a staphylococcus infection in 2003, at his winter home in Sarasota, Florida.

Literature by and about Conable[edit]

  • Window on Congress: A Congressional Biography of Barber B. Conable, Jr., James S. Fleming, Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press, 2004, ISBN 1-58046-128-X.
  • The Conable Years at the World Bank: Major Policy Addresses of Barber B. Conable, 1986–91, Barber B. Conable, Jr., Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1991, ISBN 0-8213-1901-9.
  • Congress and The Income Tax, Barber B. Conable, Jr. and Arthur L. Singleton, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989, ISBN 0-8061-2195-5.
  • Controlling the Cost of Social Security: Held on June 25, 1981 and Sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Barber B. Conable, Jr., John Charles, et al., Washington, D.C.: The Institute, 1981, ISBN 0-8447-2225-1.
  • Foreign Assistance in a Time of Constraints, Barber B. Conable, Jr., Richard S. Belous, S. Dahlia Stern, and Nita Christine Kent, eds., Washington, D.C.: National Planning Association, 1995, ISBN 0-89068-132-5.
  • Papers at Cornell University.


  1. ^ Fleming, James S (2004). Window on Congress: A Congressional Biography of Barber B. Conable, Jr. University of Rochester Press. pp. 34–36. ISBN 9781580461283. 
  2. ^ Free to Choose on YouTube (Conable's segment begins at approximately 37:20)

External links[edit]

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Austin W. Erwin
New York State Senate
53rd District

Succeeded by
Kenneth R. Willard
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Harold C. Ostertag
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 37th congressional district

Succeeded by
Thaddeus J. Dulski
Preceded by
James M. Hanley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 35th congressional district

district eliminated
Preceded by
David O'B. Martin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 30th congressional district

Succeeded by
Fred J. Eckert
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Alden W. Clausen
President of the World Bank
Succeeded by
Lewis Thompson Preston