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bethlehempard

Fred Braun, 1934-2016

From today's Wall Street Journal page A5 and online :
http://www.wsj.com/articles/fred-...ate-jobs-for-prisoners-1466790488
SixtyEighter

Please explain relevance of Fred Braun to Lafayette. I read the article- obit in the WSJ and didn't see the connection . The WSJ has these article-obits every Saturday and extremely interesting people are profiled Thanks. I am not being critical just interested.
bethlehempard

Sorry i see it was cut off. Braun attended Lafayette and wrestled there. I'll try to grab a non-truncated one. It's an interesting story.
***
After making a small fortune at age 43 by selling a manufacturer of storage tanks he had turned around, Fred Braun needed something else to do.

He had narrowly lost a primary election bid to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Kansas in 1974. His wife, who didn’t fancy the political life, had dissuaded him from running for Congress. He finally took up the cause of setting up factories to employ prison inmates, giving them a way to keep busy, learn skills and pay restitution.

“I think work is the greatest rehabilitator of all,” he told one interviewer. He also quipped: “If we can turn more ex-convicts into taxpayers, that’s punishment enough.”

Mr. Braun died May 27 of pancreatic cancer. He was 82.

Fred Philip Braun Jr. was born May 18, 1934, in Philadelphia, the eldest of four children. His father was a surveyor. His mother sold Avon cosmetics door to door and played the piano for a Methodist church.

As a high-school student, he took up wrestling and learned competitive rowing on the Schuylkill River. At Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., he studied economics and joined the wrestling team, where he recalled winning 29 consecutive matches. During his service in the U.S. Army at Fort Dix in New Jersey, he tried out unsuccessfully for the Olympic rowing team.

His interest in rowing later endeared him to a bank officer in Philadelphia, who helped him win a scholarship that allowed him to study at Harvard Business School, where he earned an M.B.A. degree in 1959. While at Harvard, he met his future wife, Marguerite Harcourt, a psychology major at Wellesley College.

One of his early jobs after Harvard was salesman for a maker of office furniture in New York City. “It’s a great place to learn the business,” he said in a 1993 interview with Ingram’s magazine. “Nobody likes salesmen there.”

In the 1960s, he moved to Kansas and began buying troubled companies, overhauling and selling them. His biggest success came with a maker of metal storage tanks, which he sold for about $2 million in the mid-1970s.

Though repairing companies could be lucrative, Mr. Braun didn’t want to keep doing that. When his wife ruled out politics, he was temporarily at loose ends.

An appointment to serve on a committee studying problems at state prisons in Kansas gave him an idea. He noticed that inmates spent much of their time lying in bunks or watching television. There weren’t enough jobs to keep them busy. “He just felt this was totally wrong,” his wife said. Mr. Braun decided to set up companies staffed by inmates.

In the 1930s, Congress put tight restrictions on the use of prison labor by private companies, a practice seen as exploitative. Though prisoners continued to make such things as license plates and furniture for government offices, there were limits on how many could be kept occupied with such tasks.

By the 1970s, with prison populations soaring, officials began to seek more and better jobs to rehabilitate inmates and keep idle hands from making trouble. Spurred partly by prison riots, Congress in 1979 loosened restrictions on sales of goods made by inmates. Some states began encouraging private firms to invest in businesses employing inmates. Those policies remain subject to occasional protests from unions and rival companies, however.

Mr. Braun acquired three manufacturing businesses and moved them into factories in Leavenworth, near the state prison. Those companies make such things as snow plows and machinery parts. The three companies have estimated that deductions from inmates’ earnings have resulted in more than $15 million of payments to the state of Kansas and crime victims.

Bruce Braun, one of his sons, recalled that some of the best workers were murderers serving life sentences: “The only thing they had to live for was to get up and go to work.”

Mr. Braun sought to break even on the investments and paid himself a modest salary, Bruce Braun said. Later, he sold the companies and set up a foundation that invested in other employers of inmates around the country. He called this career his “mission in life.”

Business travel with him could be a trial, his son recalled. The elder Mr. Braun rose before dawn and didn’t bother to sit down for lunch, subsisting instead on coffee until evening, when he would choose a cheap restaurant and then sleep in a low-cost motel.

He put 300,000 miles on a Nissan Pathfinder. “Unless it rained, his cars were never washed,” his son Bruce said.

Vacations were mostly devoted to backpacking expeditions into the wilds. His day-to-day exercise routine was rowing on Lake Quivira near his home in a suburb of Kansas City. In a notebook, he kept track of miles rowed on that lake. They totaled more than 21,500 miles over four decades.

“When I die,” he once said, “I want them to carve, ‘He shot all his bullets’ on my gravestone.”

Mr. Braun is survived by his wife, a retired school psychologist, along with four children and nine grandchildren.
SixtyEighter

I'm shocked- I missed the Lafayette connection entirely when I read the story in the WSJ. DUH ! Thanks for the second chance.

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