Obituaries : Pierre du Pont III, 77; Retired Executive

Associated Press

Pierre S. du Pont III, a retired Du Pont executive and the father of the former presidential candidate and governor, died at home Saturday, a family spokesman said. He was 77.

Du Pont rose to be a vice president and executive committee member of the giant chemical company founded by his great-great-grandfather, E. I. du Pont, before leaving the company in 1965. He also undertook separate business ventures, including an ill-starred investment in film production, and later he helped in his son’s political campaigns.

Du Pont’s death, after a long illness whose nature was not disclosed, was announced by Robert Perkins, a family spokesman.


“He and Pete were always very, very close,” said Dave Swayze, former chief of staff to the younger Du Pont. “It was not uncommon to see ‘Big Pete,’ as we knew him, at just any event, any time (the younger) Pete was giving a speech.”

‘Strong Work Ethic’

Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination before dropping out Feb. 18, said Saturday that his father was best known for “his enormously strong work ethic and his pride in the family and the family business.”

“He had the old-fashioned values of family and an enormous loyalty to the family, but he put an enormous amount of effort into his community,” Du Pont said. “And that was kind of an old-fashioned value too, that you did your work for your community.”

A chemical engineer by training, the elder Du Pont bucked his father, Lammot, to switch from the technical end of the chemical business to marketing.

His investments led to financial ups and downs, although he consistently made Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans in recent years. Forbes in 1987 ranked him as the 296th richest American, worth $300 million.

Shunned Publicity

Du Pont shunned publicity, to a point where he would turn away from reporters.

Six months after his son was elected governor in 1976, Du Pont said: “I keep myself as isolated as seems proper. I don’t ask him questions because I know that somewhere along the way, somebody will ask me what the governor thinks, and this way I can say honestly I’m not his spokesman and I don’t know.”

Du Pont said his father disagreed at first when he decided to leave a career at the Du Pont Co. to enter politics.

“He kind of shook his head and was a little skeptical,” his son recalled Saturday. “But I think after a few terms as governor, we won him over.”

Du Pont IV was elected to Congress in 1970 and then was elected Delaware governor in 1976, serving two four-year terms.

Financial Problems

The elder Du Pont’s career at the Du Pont Co. lasted from 1934 until 1965. He served as a director and company secretary, in addition to being a vice president and executive committee member.

He resigned from the company during his multimillion-dollar financial problems arising from investments with Samuel Bronston, a movie producer whose credits include “El Cid” and “55 Days at Peking.” After Bronston filed for bankruptcy in 1964, a series of suits and countersuits were filed involving Du Pont, Bronston and creditors.

Besides his son, he is survived two daughters, Jane du Pont Kidd of Dallas and Michele du Pont Goss of San Francisco, and 11 grandchildren. His wife, Jane Holcomb du Pont, died in 1985.

Services were set for Tuesday in Greenville.