Alfred Fleishman, co-founder of one of the world's largest public relations firms, Fleishman-Hillard, and an advocate for the state of Israel and European Jews displaced by World War II, has died after a brief illness. He was 96.
Fleishman died Tuesday at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, Mo.
Working with his longtime friend Robert Hillard, Fleishman created the firm in 1946 in a rented room above a Woolworth's store.
The company soon recruited a client list that included some of St. Louis' biggest firms--Anheuser-Busch, Emerson Electric Co. and May Department Stores.
Fleishman-Hillard is now the world's second-largest public relations company, behind Weber Shandwick Worldwide, with 2,300 employees in 83 offices around the world.
Hillard, who retired in 1982, and Fleishman, who retired in 1975, credited their company's success to their contrasting individual styles. Hillard, who died in 2000 at age 83, was the cautious, precise wordsmith worrying about each tree, while Fleishman was the instinctive and experienced public relations expert considering the forest at large.
Fleishman lectured widely and wrote numerous articles and columns on public relations and three books on semantics, "Sense and Nonsense," "Troubled Talk" and "Dialogue With Street Fighters." He also published the book "Common Sense Management" after his retirement.
Born in St. Louis on June 16, 1905, Fleishman worked as a pharmacist until he joined his father and brother-in-law in the family business, Fleishman Pickle Co.
Fleishman got involved in Democratic city politics in 1933, first as superintendent of recreation and then as deputy circuit court clerk, a position he held until World War II. He served as a major in the Army Air Forces, primarily as a public information officer at the Pentagon.
In 1945, he went to Germany for the military and American Jewish Congress to interview Jewish refugees in Yiddish. He spent three months in the displaced persons camps, and after returning to the U.S., made a three-month coast-to-coast, 60-city speaking tour, soliciting aid for the refugees.
Fleishman personally rated heading the delegation to Germany as his greatest accomplishment.
The public relations magnate, a close advisor to August A. Busch Jr. and other powerful businessmen, said that if he ever wrote his memoirs, "they'll tell the story of my experiences with displaced Jews."
After Israel declared independence in 1948, Fleishman became one of its most ardent supporters. He made 57 visits to the country between 1955 and 1997.
Fleishman's wife of 58 years, Lucylle Magid Fleishman, died in 1987. They had no children. He is survived by his sister, Dorothy Schucart of Detroit.