Blaustein, millionaire philanthropist, dies

December 19, 1990|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Evening Sun Staff

Morton K. Blaustein, the son and grandson of the founders of the predecessor of Amoco Oil and chief executive officer of the American Trading and Production Corp., died Monday night after choking on food while eating at a hotel restaurant in Richmond, Va. He was 64.

Blaustein, who lived in Stevenson, was listed by Forbes magazine this year as among the 400 richest people in America. The magazine ranked him 112th, with a personal fortune estimated at $700 million.

Blaustein was stricken while eating in Chardonnay's Restaurant of the Richmond Marriott Hotel where he was staying. An ambulance was called at 8:13 p.m. and medics worked until 8:46 p.m. in an attempt to aid the stricken executive.

He was taken to the Medical Center of Virginia Hospitals where he was pronounced dead at 9:22 p.m. in the emergency room.

A spokesman at the Richmond medical examiner's office said Blaustein choked to death on a piece of meat. The Hiemlich maneuver, an emergency measure to dislodge objects from the throat, had been attempted at the scene.

Blaustein was in cardiac arrest when the emergency unit arrived three minutes after the call was received at 8:10, according to the ambulance service. Medics inserted a tube in his throat and administered other pre-hospital procedures, including attempts to stimulate his heart.

Later a tracheotomy -- surgery to open the throat -- was performed, the medical examiner said.

Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Temple Oheb Shalom Congregation, 7310 Park Heights Ave.

Blaustein was the grandson of Louis Blaustein, who came to America in the late 19th century from Lithuania to escape anti-Semitism and who, after establishing himself in Baltimore, invented the oil tank wagon.

Louis Blaustein later founded American Oil Co. and with his son, Jacob, opened the first drive-in gas station, invented the first metered gas pump and developed anti-knock gasoline. The American Oil Co., now known as Amoco, later merged with Standard Oil of Indiana.

The family's business activities were later merged into the American Trading and Production Corp., which Morton Blaustein ran as chief executive officer for the last 20 years. He also was chairman.

American Trading owns and operates a fleet of ocean-going tankers, explores for and produces oil and natural gas, develops real estate, manages office parks and is involved in various forms of manufacturing, according to information provided by the company.

The company also holds substantial shares of stock in Crown Central Petroleum Corp., whose chairman is Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., Blaustein's cousin.

American Trading has 1,300 employees and owns real estate in Baltimore, the Washington area and Southern California.

Blaustein joined American Trading in 1953 after earning a Ph.D. in petroleum geology at Stanford University. He also held an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University. He was a Navy veteran of World War II.

At various times, Blaustein was on the boards of Park School, Sinai Hospital, Johns Hopkins, Stanford's geology department, and the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Blaustein was an honorary vice president and board member of the American Jewish Committee in New York. Along with family members, he founded the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights in 1971 at the AJC.

The committee said the institute, endowed by a grant from the Blaustein family, promotes human rights research, education and training programs and helps human rights organizations around the world.

Jerome Shestak, a Philadelphia trial lawyer who was the U.S. ambassador for human rights for former President Jimmy Carter, worked with Blaustein at the Jacob Blaustein Institute.

"His soul is bound up in human rights. I think if you go back to the family, when the United Nations was founded in San Francisco in 1945, Jacob Blaustein was insistent that human rights play an integral role [in its charter]. This is in the aftermath of the holocaust. The family feels a traditional interest in human rights. [Morton Blaustein] has carried on and made it his own tradition."

Selma G. Hirsh, associate director emeritus of the American Jewish Committee, knew Blaustein for most of the 40 years she's been associated with the organization.

"He's had a very long and quite an illustrious association with the American Jewish Committee," said Hirsh, who noted that he also founded the Jacob Blaustein Institute and worked with international lawyers to establish the international norms for human rights.

"The Blaustein name is a clarion call for us. We have a very strong feeling of attachment and gratitude to the family.

"He had a very special persona in the organization. In this age of double talk and double speak, you always knew where Morton stood. He was very forthright. You always knew where he stood. He wouldn't put up with any nonsense."

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