William Lockhart Clayton (1880-1966)

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

Clayton was a member of the American Liberty League’s executive committee (1934-1935). Donated at least $7,850 to the League and its Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution.

William Clayton, a.k.a. “Mr. Cotton,” co-founded Anderson, Clayton & Co. in 1904 and served for many years as its president. As this cotton trading/refining firm grew to include sales offices on five continents, Clayton became the world’s greatest cotton merchant. In 1918, he was on the War Industries Board’s Committee on Cotton Distribution. He was a Mississippi delegate to the Democratic Convention, 1928. He worked for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to coordinate inter-American affairs and was the Export-Import Bank’s vice president (1940-1942). For the next 20 years, his ultra-right views were applied to government postings: Assistant Secretary of Commerce (1942), Administrator, Surplus War Property (1944) and Assistant Secretary of State (1944-1945). As Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs (1945-1947), and member of the Manhattan Project’s Interim Committee, he helped form postwar nuclear weapons policy in May 1945. Clayton also helped build the International Trade Organization (forerunner of General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (1948).

After WWII, Clayton returned to his cotton business. He also fathered the Marshall Plan, which both rebuilt Europe and poured tremendous wealth into U.S. firms. The Plan had its origins in the Council on Foreign Relations’ “War & Peace Study Groups.” Thanks to Clayton’s Marshall Plan, his cotton company got $10 million in contracts, and Clayton himself profited to the tune of $700,000 a year. The Plan also awarded huge contracts to General Motors ($5.5 million) and the Ford Motor Co. ($1 million), even though they had helped arm the Nazi war machine.

Clayton held key positions in global groups promoting corporate power, militarism and anti-communism: alternate governor, World Bank (1946-1949); vice president, Atlantic Union Committee (1949-1961); member, National Security Training Commission (1951-1954); chairman, National Committee on Campaign Contributions & Expenditures (1960); board member, Atlantic Institute (1960) and co-chairman, U.S. Citizens Commission on NATO (1961). In 1961, he created the William Clayton Professorship in International Economics at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C., where Paul Wolfowitz, President Bush’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, was once dean.

By 1982, Anderson Clayton Corp., with gross sales of $1.9 billion and a net income of $55.4 million, had 15,000 employees worldwide. In 1986, it became a subsidiary of Quaker Oats. In 1997, Queensland Cotton Holdings of Australia acquired Anderson Clayton Corp. and became the world’s largest cotton-ginning company.


Will Clayton

Clayton Professorship in Oncology

Guide to the William Lockhart Clayton Papers

About Anderson Clayton

"Oral History Interview with Fisher Howe," Interview by Richard D. McKinzie, July 10, 1975.

Mike Peters, "The Bilderberg Group and the project of European unification"

"Why isn't the CFR in the History Books?"

Susan Ariel Aaronson, Book Reviews, June 1999: Thomas W. Zeiler, Free Trade Free World: The Advent of GATT, 1999.

Stephen I. Schwartz, Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, 1998.

Thomas D. Anderson, "Anderson, Clayton and Company," Handbook of Texas Online, 2002.

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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