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Zemurray, Samuel

ZEMURRAY, SAMUEL

ZEMURRAY, SAMUEL (1878–1961), U.S. business executive. Zemurray, who was born in Kishinev, Russia, went to the U.S. at the age of 14. After working at several jobs, he became a banana peddler in Alabama at the age of 20 and quickly rose to wealth. He became co-owner of two tramp steamers, bought 5,000 acres of Honduras land, and formed the Cuyamel Fruit Company. In 1930 Zemurray sold Cuyamel to the competing United Fruit Company for 300,000 shares of the latter's stock, making him its largest stockholder. He retired from business in Louisiana, where he became a vigorous opponent of Huey Long. By 1932 the drastically depreciated value of United Fruit stock caused him to bid for company control. He subsequently became chief of operations, reorganized the company, and was elected president in 1938. In 1951 Zemurray, by then known as the "Banana King," retired to become executive committee chairman. During the early New Deal period, Zemurray was active in the formulation of Agricultural Adjustment Act (aaa) industry codes. He served as an adviser to the Board of Economic Welfare during World War ii. During his career, Zemurray was probably the most enlightened of the big U.S. businessmen operating in Latin America. He endowed clinics, housing projects, recreation facilities, and schools for the workers on his Central American plantations at a time when such a course of action was considered visionary, if not lunatic. Zemurray, who was a friend of Chaim Weizmann, was a director of the Palestine Economic Corporation, a generous contributor to Zionist causes, and a supporter of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

bibliography:

Ch. Weizmann, Trial and Error (1949), 312–3.

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