With every holiday comes traditions. Whether it’s putting up lights, cooking certain foods, or simply being together, those traditions are a welcome part of what makes the holiday season unique, and it’s with those traditions in mind that we reflect on a story about Winthrop Rockefeller. 

In a 2022 biography of the former Arkansas governor — Winthrop Rockefeller: From New Yorker to Arkansawyer, 1912-1956author John A. Kirk writes about how Winthrop and the rest of the 77th Infantry Division had just moved to large-scale exercises and training operations in late 1942. These included long, overnight marches at Fort Jackson, with Winthrop and his men sleeping in fields at night regardless of rain or snow. 

There was a pleasant pause in maneuvers over Christmas. He joined in the celebration by gifting each of the 161 men in his company a 1922 silver dollar. This gift was inspired by his grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., who was known to carry a bag of dimes with him wherever he went. Popular legend has it that when adjusted for inflation, the founder of Standard Oil gave away tens of thousands of dollars worth of dimes to children and people he met throughout his life. Winthrop, too, accounted for inflation when he changed the gift to a silver dollar.

“Winthrop had a card printed to accompany the coin explaining its family origins and meaning. … Each of the soldiers in Winthrop’s company also received a scarf, a sweater, and pair of wristlets from Pocantico Hills, all hand-knitted by [Winthrop’s mother, Abby] and her friends to help boost troop morale. In addition, Abby sent each of the men a comb and nail file set.” 

Winthrop Rockefeller: From New Yorker to Arkansawyer, 1912-1956

This story, however brief in the context of Winthrop’s long and arduous military service, embodies the Rockefeller legacy of generosity. Now, in the heart of the holiday season, we hope that you and your loved ones are able to find just as much comfort in the traditions you celebrate this time of year.

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