Leonard Firestone

Leonard Kimball Firestone (June 10, 1907 – December 24, 1996) was an American businessman, diplomat, and philanthropist.[1]

Leonard Firestone
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United States Ambassador to Belgium
In office
June 14, 1974 – January 20, 1977
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded byRobert Strausz-Hupé
Succeeded byAnne Cox Chambers
Personal details
Leonard Kimball Firestone

(1907-06-10)June 10, 1907
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
DiedDecember 24, 1996(1996-12-24) (aged 89)
Pebble Beach, California, U.S.
Alma materPrinceton University
ProfessionBusinessman, diplomat

Early life and educationEdit

He was born on June 10, 1907 in Akron, Ohio, to Harvey S. Firestone and Idabelle Smith Firestone. He was educated at The Hill School, and graduated from Princeton University in 1931, where he played golf and polo. He was a member of Alpha Kappa Psi, and later became a member of Bohemian Grove.[2][3]



After graduating from college, Firestone was employed by the family company in sales positions. In 1935, he was appointed sales manager and in 1939, became a director of Firestone. He was named president of Firestone Aviation Products Co. in 1941.

He was commissioned in the United States Navy as a lieutenant, but was assigned to inactive status to become president of Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in 1943. In 1966, he was the target of an abortive multimillion-dollar kidnap plan.[4] He retired as president of Firestone's California operations in 1970.[5]

Inspired by a 10-year local weather study, Firestone and two neighboring ranchers developed vineyards in Santa Ynez, California, in 1972. Firestone planted 250 acres (1.0 km2) of vines, including 60 acres (240,000 m2) of Chardonnay.[6]

In 1975, his son Brooks decided to leave the family business, and relocated his family to the Santa Ynez Valley. In partnership with his father, he founded the first commercial winery to crush grapes in Santa Barbara County. The vineyard served as the basis for the major development in California as a global source of wine.[7][8]

Politics and diplomacyEdit

A staunch Republican, Firestone was a delegate to the Republican National Convention from California in 1944 (alternate), 1948 and 1952.[9] In 1954 he was elected to the city council of Beverly Hills.[10]

Firestone was chairman of the Nelson Rockefeller 1964 presidential campaign.[11] Firestone was appointed U.S. ambassador to Belgium by President Richard Nixon in 1974, and was reappointed by President Gerald Ford, serving until 1976. He was later chairman of the Richard Nixon Foundation.[12]

In January 1977, former President Ford and Betty Ford moved into a home next to Firestone at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, which later led to the foundation of the Betty Ford Center.[13]


Firestone was a contributor to charities and served as president of the trustees of the University of Southern California and president of the World Affairs Council of L.A. He was a board member of several organizations.

Firestone took a particular interest in charities associated with alcohol abuse, and was cofounder of the Betty Ford Centre in 1982. He was also director of the National Council of Alcoholism and also the Eisenhower Medical Center. Firestone also served on the Advisory Board of the ABC Recovery Center and was a major contributor to the expansion at the ABC Center.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1932, he married Polly Curtis, by whom he had three children, including Brooks Firestone and Kimball Firestone who owns Firestone's Culinary Tavern in Frederick, Maryland.[14][15] Polly died in 1965 of cancer. He then married Barbara Knickerbocker Heatley on March 4, 1966. She died in 1985 of cancer as well. He married Caroline Hudson Lynch on January 11, 1987,[12] the daughter of the owner of Oklahoma Ada and Atoka Railroad and former spouse to Edmund Lynch, whose father co-founded Merrill Lynch.[16] His grandson is reality TV personality Andrew Firestone. Leonard Firestone was buried at Columbiana Cemetery in Columbiana, Ohio.[17]


  1. ^ "Leonard Kimball Firestone, class of 1931". Princeton University. 1996. Retrieved April 23, 2015. Leonard Firestone died at home in Pebble Beach, Calif., Dec. 24, 1996, of respiratory failure. He was 89. At The Hill School, where he prepared, and at Princeton, he was active in golf and polo. Upon graduation he was employed in sales positions by Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., founded by his father in Akron, Ohio. In 1932, he married Polly Curtis, by whom he had three children. Polly died in 1965. In 1935, Len was appointed sales manager and in 1939 became a director of Firestone. He was named president of Firestone Aviation Products Co. in 1941. He was commissioned in the Navy as a lieutenant, but was assigned to inactive status to become president of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. of California in 1943. ...
  2. ^ Planet – 404 pagina
  3. ^ Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity Archived September 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ TIME
  5. ^ a b ABC Recovery Center
  6. ^ WineDay:Firestone Milestones
  7. ^ "Our History | Firestone Vineyard". www.firestonewine.com. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  8. ^ Ausmus, William A. (June 30, 2008). Wines and Wineries of California’s Central Coast: A Complete Guide from Monterey to Santa Barbara. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-93183-1.
  9. ^ The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Finlinson to Fischel
  10. ^ City Election Results 1950–2005
  11. ^ Anderson, Totton J.; Lee, Eugene C. (January 1, 1965). "The 1964 Election in California". The Western Political Quarterly. 18 (2): 451–474. doi:10.2307/445290. JSTOR 445290.
  12. ^ a b L. K. Firestone Weds Caroline Lynch – New York Times
  13. ^ Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation – Betty Ford Center News
  14. ^ http://firestonesrestaurant.com/2012/about/our-staff/
  15. ^ "Mrs. Leonard Firestone, 55, Wife of Industrialist, Is Dead". New York Times. January 11, 1965. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  16. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1952/05/14/archives/caroline-hudson-to-be-wed-in-fall-her-engagement-to-edmund-c-lynch.html
  17. ^ Political Graveyard

External linksEdit

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert Strausz-Hupé
United States Ambassador to Belgium
Succeeded by
Anne Cox Chambers