Walter A. Haas

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Walter A. Haas, Sr.
Born May 11, 1889
Died December 7, 1979(1979-12-07) (aged 90)
Nationality United States
Education B.S. University of California-Berkeley
Occupation businessman
Known for President of Levi Strauss & Co.
Spouse(s) Elise Stern
Children Rhoda Haas Goldman
Peter E. Haas
Walter A. Haas, Jr.
Parent(s) Fanny Koshland
Abraham Haas

Walter A. Haas, Sr. (May 11, 1889 – December 7, 1979), son of the founder of Hellman-Haas Grocery (which became Smart & Final), was a former president and chairman of Levi Strauss & Co. Haas was credited with saving the once struggling company.

Early life and education[edit]

Haas was born to a Jewish family, one of four children of Abraham Haas and Fanny Koshland.[1] His father was an immigrant from Bavaria who founded the Hellman, Hass and Company which eventually became the Smart & Final grocery store chain.[1] His mother was the daughter of one of the most successful wool merchants in San Francisco.[2] His siblings were Charles, Ruth (1891), and Eleanor (1900).[3] In 1910, Haas graduated with a BS degree from the University of California, Berkeley College of Commerce.[4] (He also earned an honorary degree from Berkeley in 1958). Haas served in the U.S. Army Field Artillery during World War I.[4]


Upon his return to the United States in 1919, he worked at the Levi Strauss & Company, then a small drygoods wholesaler and maker of work clothing, owned by the family of his wife. In 1928, he became president and served in that position until 1955; thereafter, he served as chairman until 1970 and remained active in company affairs until his death in 1979.[4] Haas' tenure and dedication at Levi Strauss - along with that of his business partner and brother-in-law Daniel E. Koshland, Sr., father of physicist Daniel E. Koshland, Jr.[5] - is widely credited with saving the company leading it through the Great Depression, racial integration at its factories, the global popularization of the Levi brand, and the creation of the Levi Strauss Foundation.[6]

Politics and philanthropy[edit]

A Republican, he was an alternate delegate to the 1952 Republican National Convention. He was Jewish, and served as president of the San Francisco Jewish Welfare Federation.

Personal life[edit]

In 1914, Haas married Elise Stern, daughter of Sigmund Stern, the nephew of Levi Strauss[4][7] (Strauss had died unmarried and without children and deeded his company to his four nephews).[8] Haas had three children: Rhoda Haas Goldman, Peter E. Haas, and Walter A. Haas, Jr.[9] In 1989, the University of California, Berkeley Regents voted to rename the business school the Haas School of Business in his honor, after a large gift from the Haas family.[4]


  • Who's Who in America 1964