Barber Conable

Barber Benjamin Conable, Jr. was a U.S. Congressman from New York and president of the World Bank.

In 1962, Conable was elected as a Republican to the New York State Senate. After only one term, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 from a Rochester-based district. He was reelected nine more times. He was known on both sides of the aisle for his honesty and integrity, at one point being voted by his colleagues the “most respected” member of Congress; he refused to accept personal contributions larger than $50. As longtime ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of his signal legislative achievements was a provision in the U.S. tax code that made so-called 401(k) and 403(b) defined-contribution retirement plans possible, and contributions to those plans by both employers and employees tax-deferred, under federal tax law.

A long-time ally of Richard Nixon, Conable broke with him in disgust after the revelations of the Watergate scandal. When the White House released a tape of Nixon instructing his Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman to obstruct the FBI investigation, Conable said it was a “smoking gun”, a phrase which quickly entered the political folklore.

Conable retired from the House in 1984. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed him president of the World Bank. His experience as a legislator proved crucial as he persuaded his former colleagues to almost double Congress’s appropriations for the Bank. He retired in 1991.