AP file
Laurance Rockefeller in an undated file photograph.
updated 7/11/2004 7:58:58 PM ET 2004-07-11T23:58:58

Laurance Rockefeller, a conservationist, philanthropist and leading figure in the field of venture capital, died in his sleep Sunday morning. He was 94.

The cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis, his spokesman Fraser Seitel said in a statement.

Rockefeller was No. 377 on this year’s Forbes magazine list of 587 billionaires, with $1.5 billion. But he was perhaps best known for his environmental work: He served under five presidents in several capacities related to conservation and the outdoors.

He founded the American Conservation Association in 1958 and was head of Jackson Hole Preserve Inc., a conservation organization that played a major role in protecting parts of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and redwood trees in California.

Rockefeller helped develop national parks in Wyoming, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Vermont, and chaired the White House Conference on Natural Beauty.

Rockefeller also was a pivotal developer of the economics field that became known as venture capital.

Investor from Eastern Airlines to Apple
In 1938 he helped finance World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker’s Eastern Airlines, and he later invested in McDonnell Aircraft Corp., Intel Corp. and Apple Computer Inc. He sought to fund ventures that would strengthen national security, welfare or the economy.

“As his younger brother, I always admired Laurance for his extraordinary business skills and often followed his lead by joining him in the field of venture capital, where he was a true pioneer,” said David Rockefeller, the last remaining child of John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Laurance Spelman Rockefeller was born May 26, 1910, in New York, and was the fourth of six children of Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. He graduated from Princeton University in 1932 and studied law at Harvard for two years. In 1934, he married Mary French.

He served in the Navy during World War II and became a lieutenant commander.

Rockefeller served on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and became the first recipient of the American Cancer Society’s Alfred P. Sloan Memorial Award for his contributions to cancer research.

Rockefeller is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. His wife died in 1997.

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