Better Know Your World Bank Presidents

By: /
April 25, 2012
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President Obama did not nominate Jeffrey Sachs to the presidency of the World Bank. He also did not nominate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In some ways, though, President Obama nominated a hybrid of the two most highly touted candidates. In the Korean-born Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Obama checks the development box and, at least partially, the non-American box. And unlike many of his predecessors, the president left the banker box unchecked. To show just how different Kim is from his predecessors, we present an overview of former presidents of the World Bank.

Eugene Meyer
Term: 1946-1946
Nominated by: President Harry Truman
Before he was president, he was: A newspaper publisher
The More You Know: Meyer bought The Washington Post when it was going bankrupt and financed it for more than 20 years without profit to improve its quality.

John Jay McCloy
Term: 1947-1949
Nominated by: President Harry Truman
Before he was president, he was: U.S. assistant secretary of war
The More You Know: During the Second World War, McCloy halted plans to help concentration camp prisoners by bombing the rail lines that led to Auschwitz. He later pardoned convicted Nazi war criminals as High Commissioner for Germany.

Eugene Robert Black
Term: 1949-1962
Nominated by: President Harry Truman
Before he was president, he was: An executive at Chase National Bank
The More You Know:  Black had been such an integral part of the World Bank in its first 16 years, it was often at the time known as “Black’s Bank”.

George Woods
Term: 1963-1968
Nominated by: President John F. Kennedy
Before he was president, he was: An executive at the investment bank First Boston Corporation
The More You Know: Wood went to night school in banking after high school only after receiving the encouragement of his employer at the time.

Robert McNamara
Term: 1968-1981
Nominated by: President Lyndon Johnson
Before he was president, he was: U.S. Defense Secretary
The More You Know: McNamara was secretary of defense to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, but left the office after Johnson rejected his recommendations to freeze troop levels and to halt the bombing in North Vietnam.

Alden Clausen
Term: 1981-1986
Nominated by: President Ronald Reagan
Before he was president, he was: An executive at Bank of America
The More You Know: Clausen earned the nickname “Tom” after playing a character with that name in a school play at age 6. The name stuck throughout his life.

Barber Conable
Term: 1986-1991
Nominated by: President Ronald Reagan
Before he was president, he was: A U.S. Congressman
The More You Know: Though Conable was a long-time ally of Nixon, he severed these ties in disgust after the Watergate scandal.

Lewis Preston
Term: 1991-1995
Nominated by: President George H W Bush
Before he was president, he was: An executive at J.P. Morgan
The More You Know: Preston died of cancer during his tenure at the bank.

JamesWolfensohn
Term: 1995-2005
Nominated by: President Bill Clinton
Before he was president, he was: A partner in his own investment firm, James D. Wolfensohn, Inc.
The More You Know: Wolfenson competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics as a member of the Austrian fencing team.

Paul Wolfowitz
Term: 2005-2007
Nominated by: President George W. Bush
Before he was president, he was: U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense
The More You Know: Wolfowitz resigned from the World Bank in 2007 after it was discovered that he was involved with Shaha Ali Riza, a senior officer at the World Bank, and had improperly handled her pay increases.

Robert Zoellick
Term: 2007-2012
Nominated by: President George W. Bush
Before he was president, he was: Vice Chairman of  Goldman Sachs
The More You Know: Zoellick was one of the signatories of the 1998 letter to President Clinton from the Project for a New American Century advocating military action against Iraq. Later, as Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration, he was a leading voice for ending the violence in Darfur.