Leonard K. Firestone, the tire magnate and philanthropist who was a confidant of several U.S. presidents, died in December 1996 at his home in Pebble Beach, Calif. He was 89.
A family spokesman said Firestone died of complications from respiratory failure.
The last surviving child of Harvey S. Firestone, who founded the tire company that bears the family name, Leonard K. Firestone was named U.S. ambassador to Belgium in 1974 by President Richard Nixon, to whom the industrialist was a close advisor and financial supporter.
Firestone was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and was reappointed by President Gerald R. Ford. He served as ambassador to Belgium until December 1976, but the lifelong Republican drew more scrutiny because of his political connections.
His financial contributions to the presidential efforts of Ford, his next-door neighbor in Rancho Mirage; Ronald Reagan, and former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. drew notice from reporters, but little resulted from it.
Firestone, who was an enthusiastic supporter of Republican Wendell Wilkie's 1940 presidential campaign, first attracted national political notice in the 1960s as a member of Ronald Reagan's original "kitchen cabinet" of close friends and advisors when he was governor of California.
After Nixon resigned from the presidency, Firestone stayed in touch with him, serving as president of the Richard Nixon Foundation, which was formed by several Nixon friends to establish a presidential library. The foundation's early troubles attracted unfavorable publicity, but Firestone never wavered in his belief that helping out friends was the right thing to do.
His son, Brooks, carries on Leonard Firestone's enthusiasm for Republican politics. Brooks Firestone is a second-term Republican state assemblyman, representing portions of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
He was a major benefactor of national efforts to curb alcohol abuse. He was a director of the National Council of Alcoholism and the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
He was a past chairman of the governing Board of Trustees at USC and a past president of the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles. He was a member of the national executive board of Boy Scouts of America. He was a minority shareholder in Gene Autry's successful effort to bring a second major league baseball team, the Angels, to Los Angeles in 1961.
he and his late brother Raymond C. Firestone completed a relocation of their father's boyhood home and farm buildings from Columbiana, Ohio, to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich.
Born on June 10, 1907, Firestone was the third son of Harvey and Idabelle Firestone. He graduated from Princeton in 1931 and later joined the sales department of his father's tire company.
In 1935, he was appointed sales manager at Firestone headquarters in Akron, Ohio. He was elected a director of the company in 1939 and the president of the Firestone Aviation Products Co. in 1941.
He was a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. After leaving active duty, he became president and general manager of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. of California. Based in Los Angeles, he retired as president of Firestone's California operations in 1970, while continuing as a director of the parent company until his appointment as ambassador to Belgium. He returned to Firestone's board of directors in 1980 and served until 1983.
Firestone married three times. He was married in 1932 to Polly Curtis of South Orange, N.J., who died in 1965. A year after her death, he married Barbara K. Heatley of San Francisco. She passed away in 1985.
In 1987, he married Caroline Hudson, who survives him.
In addition to his wife and son Brooks, Firestone is survived by son Kimball of Middletown Md.; daughter Lendy Brown of Paris, Ky.; 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.more » « less