May 26, 2016

Richard Leone...

Richard Leone at the time of his senate run -- Photo by NY Times
One evening in 1978, I was watching Walter Cronkite and the CBS Evening News.  Much to my surprise, a face appeared that I recognized.  It was Richard Leone, a classmate of mine from 1958 through 1962 at the University of Rochester.  Dick was a political science major, while I majored in history.  We had a lot of classes in common.  We had become good friends as freshmen in the newly-constructed Tiernan dormitory.  He and his roommate, Phillip LaSusa, and I had become quite close and remained so until we graduated.  Even while we were undergraduates, we knew that Dick Leone was going to amount to something special.
The reason that he was appearing on my television screen was a news item about the contest for the democratic party's next senatorial candidate from New Jersey.  The two individuals vying for the nomination were my friend, Richard Leone, and the former New York Knicks basketball star Bill Bradley.  Walter Cronkite pointed out that New Jersey Governor, Brendan Byrne, was backing and promoting Leone, but that popular sentiment among party loyalists was strongly in the Bradley camp.  I followed the campaign over the next few months and watched Bill Bradley soundly defeat Dick and go on to win the Senate seat, which he held for the next 12 years.  Nonetheless, I continued to run across Richard Leone's name in prominent positions, always associated with politics, government, the Democratic Party, and defending the "little man."

Not long ago, I learned that Richard had died.  I don't have a lot of friends who merit an obituary in the New York Times, but he was one.  Here's what they had to say:
"Former president of the Century Foundation and a past chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, died on Thursday, July 16. He was 75 years old. He was being treated for Parkinson's disease and was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Born in Webster, New York in 1940, Dick Leone spent the bulk of his career in public service. A graduate of the University of Rochester, he earned a Masters degree and a PhD at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. A pragmatic progressive whose views were forged during the Kennedy era, Leone worked on many local and national campaigns. One of his proudest moments was working as an advance man on Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign in Oregon. He also worked on presidential campaigns for George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Bill Bradley.
In the '60s, he was executive director of the White House Task Force on The Cities. In addition, Leone managed Brendan Byrne's two successful campaigns for Governor of New Jersey, in 1973 and 1977. From 1974 to 1977, Leone was state treasurer of New Jersey.
In 2005, he served as chairman of Governor Jon Corzine's transition committee. Leone served as a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and was chairman of the Port Authority from 1990 to 1994. From 1989 to 2011, he was president of the Century Foundation (formerly Twentieth Century Fund), a public policy think tank. Leone steered the foundation to concentrate on such issues as inequality and civil liberties and he fought against attempts at privatizing Social Security.
Leone's private sector jobs included working as President of the New York Mercantile Exchange and a managing director at Dillon Read & Co. He has long been a director/trustee of multiple funds at Dreyfus Corp. and serves on the board of the Center for American Progress.
Burial is private, but a memorial service will take place in Princeton, New Jersey in September.
He is survived by his wife, Meg Cox Leone; his children Kate Leone and Max Leone, and his granddaughter Lucy Kirschner, as well as his sister Sandra Leone Thomas Brooks and first wife, Anita Leone. As well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Those wishing to honor his memory can consider donations to New Jersey Policy Perspective or 
The Michael J. Fox Foundation."   
Published in The New York Times on July 21, 2015.
Another, somewhat less formal tribute appeared in a New Jersey political media outlet:
"Richard C. Leone, the former state treasurer under Gov. Brendan Byrne, was known for keeping a tight grip on New Jersey's finances.

Early into his tenure, he reportedly became suspicious about checks to dozens of employees he did not know and sent out an order that they report to his office to tell him what they did. Nearly 20 checks were left unclaimed, earmarked for state employees believed to have no-show jobs.

His nickname, recalled former colleagues, soon became "Dr. No."

Leone, a major, behind-the-scenes figure in New Jersey politics and policy debate who at the age of 33 became the youngest state treasurer since Colonial times and later was named chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,died last Thursday in Hopewell. He was 75.

Born in Webster N.Y., Leone graduated from the University of Rochester in 1962 and earned master's and doctoral degrees at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He served as administrative assistant to Gov. Richard Hughes in Trenton, joining a staff of other bright, young men who became known as the "Woody Wilson Boys." Later recruited by Johnson administration, he became executive director of the White House Task Force on the Cities.

In 1972, Leone managed Democratic Gov. Brendan Byrne's successful election campaign and was named state treasurer when Byrne took office in 1973. As treasurer, he played a major role in the creation of the state's income tax, which Leone recalled as an "awful experience" that also threatened to derail the governor's re-election bid.

"My staff used to not let me see the mail some days," Leone once remarked.
Leone's own campaign for public office came in 1978, when he ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, losing badly to former New York Knicks basketball star Bill Bradley.

After leaving government, Leone moved on to Wall Street, where he served as president of the New York Mercantile Exchange from 1980 to 1982, and as a managing director at the investment banking firm of Dillon Read & Co.
Named to the Port Authority board by Republican Gov. Thomas H. Kean, he was made chairman by Democratic Gov. James Florio, and leading the agency at the time of the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center that killed six.

Leone helped found and was chairman of the Center for Analysis of Public Issues in Princeton, was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was also president of the Twentieth Century Fund, now known as the Century Foundation—a New York-based nonpartisan public policy think tank. In a statement, the foundation called Leone, who remained as a senior fellow, a policy visionary.

"For him, public policy wasn't a job — it was a mission. He was always two steps ahead on key debates, supporting work that was intellectually rigorous and exclusively oriented toward improving the lives of ordinary Americans," said foundation chairman Bradley Abelow and president Mark Zuckerman.
He also served as an adviser to Jon Corzine during his run for the U.S. Senate in 2000, becoming the head of the governor's transition team after his election as the state's chief executive.

"I'm dismayed by the developments of the last 20 years in Trenton, " said Leone at the time. "This may sound naive, but there was a time when people believed it was going to get to be a better and better government, cleaner and more ethical and we were going to reduce the role of money and be fiscally responsible."

Leone's is survived by his wife, the former Meg Cox; a daughter, Kate Leone; a son. Max,; a granddaughter; and his sister, Sandra Brooks."
Ted Sherman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Find on Facebook.

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