Thomas P. Phelan, a onetime statistical clerk who melded the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets into a single Pacific Coast Stock Exchange and then became its first president, died Thursday.
Claude Wundrow, his son-in-law, said Phelan was 87 when he died in San Rafael. He had moved to Northern California from Orange County last year because of ill health and to be near his children and grandchildren.
Son of Irish immigrants who settled in the Whittier area of Los Angeles, Phelan graduated from UCLA in 1929 (earning the university’s professional achievement award in finance in 1964) and went to work at the old Los Angeles Curb Exchange that same year as a $75-a-month clerk. The Curb Exchange was the forerunner of the Los Angeles Exchange.
He worked in every department of the trading floor and was made assistant secretary in 1936.
He left finance for airplane production during World War II, as an assistant vice president at Vultee Aircraft, returning to the Los Angeles exchange in 1947 as executive vice president and secretary.
In 1957, Phelan headed a team of executives that merged the Los Angeles and San Francisco exchanges into the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange under separate presidents. He headed the Los Angeles division and in 1961, became the first president of the consolidated trading floors.
Phelan retired after 13 years in 1974, and during his tenure originated the now nationally observed “Invest in America Week.” He also was credited with breakthroughs in stock certificate handling and helped create a national market system.
After retirement, he joined the International Executive Service Corps and was sent overseas to reorganize stock exchanges in Korea, Colombia, Iran, Thailand and Indonesia.
Nicknamed the “Paunch Corps” because of the girth of the middle-aged executives who made up its ranks, it was the brainchild of David Rockefeller, who wanted to send American know-how around the world through seasoned men in their retirement years.
Phelan’s survivors include his wife, Carleen, two daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at St. John Vianney Chapel on Balboa Island.