Open main menu

Richard King Mellon

Richard King Mellon Hall of Science at Duquesne University, Pennsylvania

Richard King Mellon (June 19, 1899 – June 3, 1970), commonly known as R.K., was an American financier, general, and philanthropist from the Pittsburgh suburb of Ligonier, Pennsylvania.


The son of Richard B. Mellon, nephew of Andrew W. Mellon, and grandson of Thomas Mellon, he and his sister Sarah Mellon Scaife and cousins Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon-Bruce, were heirs to the Mellon fortune, which included major holdings in Mellon Bank, Gulf Oil, and Alcoa. In 1957, when Fortune prepared its first list of the wealthiest Americans, it estimated that the four cousins were all amongst the richest eight people in the United States, with fortunes of between $400 million and $700 million dollars each. R.K. Mellon served as president and chairman of Mellon Bank. He also served on the board of trustees of the University of Pittsburgh over a span of several decades and was a major benefactor to the university.[1]

Military ServiceEdit

Mellon served in the United States Army in both world wars and remained active in the United States Army Reserve, receiving the Distinguished Service Medal and rising to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Urban RenewalEdit

He is chiefly remembered for his urban renewal efforts in Pittsburgh, undertaken in an unlikely bipartisan (Mellon was a lifelong Republican) partnership with the city's postwar Democratic mayor David L. Lawrence. After returning to the city following World War II, Mellon developed an interest in improving Pittsburgh's severe flooding, pollution, and urban blight. Under the auspices of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), massive demolition and redevelopment projects transformed the city, backed politically by Lawrence and financially by Mellon and his companies. Mellon also used his economic power to push companies and landowners to comply with new regulations. In 1955 a redevelopment plan and federal funding were approved to coincide with the construction of a new civic arena (1961-2010). The URA, with the support of R. K. Mellon, callously displaced 8,000 residents, businesses and churches. Government-funded demolition destroyed the fabric of the African American community of the Lower Hill District. During the four decades, which followed the demolition, dozens of acres of land remained vacant. [2] Mellon served as Vice President of American Council to Improve Our Neighborhoods, an organization to promote for-profit private urban renewal projects.[3]


He married Constance Prosser McCaulley, daughter of a New York banker, in 1936. They adopted four children: Richard P. Mellon, Seward Prosser Mellon, Constance Barber Mellon, and Cassandra Mellon Milbury. Richard King Mellon was also the primary financial founder of Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, then known as the School of Urban and Public Affairs.


The Richard King Mellon Foundation manages his charitable estate and has recently participated in redeveloping industrial brownfields in Pittsburgh.[4]

Maurepas Swamp WMAEdit

In 2001 the foundation donated two tracts of land, totaling 61,633 acres, to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for the Maurepas Swamp WMA. Between 2001 and 2011 another 12,000 acres were gained through purchases and donations. In 2012 another 29,630 acres (The MC Davis Tract) was acquired from The Conservation Fund. Subsequent acquisitions of the Rathborne, Boyce, and Crusel tracts now gives the WMA 122,098 acres that all began with the Mellon Foundation donation.[5]


  1. ^ Scott, Ronald L., ed. (1960). The Owl 1960. University of Pittsburgh. p. 243. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  2. ^,accessed 3/29/2018; Bob Bauber, triblive, Jan. 22, 2013; Byron W. Woodson Sr., A President in the Family, (Westport, CT, Praeger, 2001),145.
  3. ^ Joshua Olsen. Better Places Better Lives. p. 66.
  4. ^ Daparma, Ron (August 31, 2007), "Master developer sought for Hazelwood", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, PA
  5. ^ Maurepas Swamp WMA - Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Retrieved 2016-08-07

External linksEdit