Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower, 85, last surviving brother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a durable public figure himself who served eight presidents, headed three universities and held directorships on numerous corporate boards in a career spanning six decades, died today at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He had cancer.
Dr. Eisenhower had lived for the past 28 years in Baltimore, where he served twice as president of The Johns Hopkins University.
He also was president of what was then Kansas State College and of Pennsylvania State University during periods of rapid growth at both institutions in the 1940s and 1950s.
In government, he worked as a high-level official for Presidents Coolidge, Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt and was a close unpaid adviser to every president, including his brother, from Truman to Nixon. He also served "Ike" as a special ambassador to Latin America, an area in which he had a special interest.
He served on 12 presidential commissions, chaired five, including the controversial Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Crime in the wake of the urban riots of the 1960s, and received the highest civilian decoration from the presidents of seven foreign countries for his work in international cooperation.
He wrote two books, "The Wine is Bitter" in 1963, a bestseller on U.S-Latin American relations, and "The President is Calling" in 1974, a hard look at the job of being president of the United States.
During a life that took him from the plains of his native Kansas to the seats of world power, Dr. Eisenhower received 37 honorary degrees from 32 American universities and five foreign universities and sat on the boards of 13 corporations, including insurance companies and financial institutions from California to England.
Between government assignments, board meetings and academic duties, Dr. Eisenhower was a faithful follower of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. In 1967, the Orioles presented him a gold lifetime pass to all the team's games, the only one of its kind. He also was given a $1-a-year contract as a relief pitcher and then immediately put on the "disabled list."
While a lifelong registered Republican, Dr. Eisenhower prided himself on his political independence. He supported the independent presidential candidacy of John Anderson in 1980 and was critical of presidents of both parties from Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. He confided to friends that he voted for Democratic presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale in the 1984 race.
He once called President Nixon a "kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . . . with no deep-seated philosophy to guide him" and faulted President Roosevelt for interning thousands of Japanese-Americans in the emotional furor following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and U.S entry into World War II.
Appointed by Roosevelt as the first director of the War Relocation Authority, which was responsible for interning the Japanese-Americans, Dr. Eisenhower later wrote in his memoirs that the action subjected the evacuees to "indignities of historic proportions" and "need not have happened." He resigned from the job three months after his appointment.
More recently, Dr. Eisenhower criticized both domestic and foreign policies of the Reagan administration. In September, in his last interview before his death, he told Baltimore author and free-lance writer Neil A. Grauer that Reagan military initiatives in Central America were "forcing these people into closer identification with the communist powers." The rebels of El Salvador, for example, he said in the interview, which was carried in The Baltimore Evening Sun, "are not communists in the normal sense of the word. They are fighting an oppressive system. The only reason they are identified as communists is because the only country helping them is the U.S.S.R., through Cuba."
As for the domestic economy, Dr. Eisenhower said the Reagan prescription for lowering inflation is "like giving strychnine for a headache . . . . Sure, if you put 12.5 million people out of work, have 25,000 bankruptcies and nearly $100 billion a year imbalance in international trade, you can keep down inflation."
Born in Abilene, Kan., on Sept. 15, 1899, Milton Eisenhower was the last of seven children, all sons, of David and Ida Eisenhower. His older and more famous brother, Dwight, was born in 1890.
At the age of 4, Milton was struck with scarlet fever, which left him with permanently weak eyes. Scrawny compared to his athletic brothers, he pursued books and became a scholar.
He worked his way through what was then called Kansas State College in Manhattan, playing a dance band piano and writing free-lance articles for the Kansas City Star.
Plagued by illness and financial problems, he eventually graduated in 1924. Shortly thereafter, he achieved exceptionally high scores on a federal civil service examination and was posted to Scotland as vice consul in Edinburgh.
Two years later, he was back in the United States, serving as chief assistant to President Coolidge's secretary of Agriculture, William M. Jardine, who had been president of Kansas State College when Dr. Eisenhower studied there. It was the first of many high positions he would hold in the next four decades.
Dr. Eisenhower continued at his post at Agriculture through the Hoover administration and into the first years of the Roosevelt era. Despite their considerable political differences, Republican Eisenhower and Democrat Roosevelt worked closely together. They enjoyed one another's company, and the two often lunched together in the Oval Office.
Dr. Eisenhower's duties expanded, and he became national Land Use Coordinator during the Depression years of the 1930s. With America's entry into World War II, he served his short-lived term as director of the War Relocation Authority, then conducted a study at Roosevelt's request for creating what was to become the Office of War Information.
Later, he served, among other things, as Roosevelt's personal representative in planning the first wartime Quebec Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Midway through the war, Dr. Eisenhower left government to serve successively as president of Kansas State College, Pennsylvania State University and Johns Hopkins, spanning almost three decades from 1943 to 1972.
Even so, he maintained his ties with Washington and was called on frequently both as a public member of various government entities and as a private adviser to presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
Truman tapped him to head the peacetime reorganization of the Department of Agriculture and appointed him to the Famine Emergency Relief Committee, the Commission on Higher Education and other bodies.
President Kennedy asked him to join the informal, but ill-fated, "Tractors for Freedom" committee to help win release of the 1,200 Cuban-American invaders captured in the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle. Dr. Eisenhower said he would agree to joining Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther and others on the committee if Kennedy would declare publicly that the committee was acting under presidential auspices. He didn't, Dr. Eisenhower said, and the committee was abandoned after coming under fire by critics who said its members were meddling in foreign policy and succumbing to international blackmail.
President Johnson, in addition to appointing him chairman of the violence commission in 1968, conferred with Dr. Eisenhower frequently during the 1965 Dominican Republic crisis and named him to head the first Commission on Presidential Scholars.
President Nixon appointed Dr. Eisenhower to chair a commission to study the effectiveness of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Nixon, as Johnson's successor in the White House, also accepted the findings of the violence commission, but ignored them, to the annoyance of Dr. Eisenhower.
As for his relationship with brother Dwight in the White House, Dr. Eisenhower said he functioned as a sounding board, not as a manipulator, as some conservative Republicans charged.
"I didn't work for him at the White House," he told author Grauer. "I wasn't subservient to him. I didn't want anything. He knew that. We thought alike, but I never tried to tell him what to do. I asked him the right questions for him to clarify his own thinking."
In the academic phase of his life, Dr. Eisenhower (all of his doctorates were honorary) presided over both expansion and liberalization of the three schools he headed.
While president of Kansas State from 1943 to 1950, the physical plant was increased 50 percent and faculty salaries 75 percent. Technical departments added liberal arts to their requirements and racial discrimination was officially eliminated. Kansas State was upgraded from a "college" to a "university" in 1959.
Similarly, Penn State was transformed from a college to a university with a 70 percent increase in faculty salaries and $55 million in new construction during his presidency there from 1950 to 1956.
Dr. Eisenhower served as president of Johns Hopkins from 1956 to 1967, and again from to 1971 to 1972, the only person to hold the position twice. In the first term, the university's income tripled and its endowment doubled with $76 million in building construction. Faculty salaries were raised to the fourth highest in the nation.
Dr. Eisenhower retired from Hopkins in 1967 but was called back in 1971 to help trim deficits run up during the administration of his successor, Lincoln Gordon.
In 1927, Dr. Eisenhower married Helen Eakin. She died in 1954. They had two children, Ruth Eisenhower Snider, who died in 1954, and Milton S. Jr. In addition to his son, of Scarsdale, N.Y., Dr. Eisenhower is survived by four grandchildren.