Funeral services for Charles T. "Chuck" Manatt, 75, were held Thursday, July 28 at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Audubon. Pastor Jud Stover officiating. Interment was in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Audubon.
Charles T. "Chuck" Manatt was born in Chicago, Ill. on June 9, 1936. His multifaceted 50-year career spanned law, diplomacy, farming, banking, politics, business, and philanthropy. He died on July 22, 2011 at a hospital in Richmond, Va.
He was raised on an Audubon farm that was acquired by his grandfather in 1879.
When not occupied by school or farm chores, he read voraciously – a habit he would continue all his life. As a teen, he became active in the Future Farmers of America and the Boy Scouts, becoming Audubon's first ever Eagle Scout.
At a young age he met, and in high school began dating, Kathleen Klinkefus, also from Audubon. They both attended Iowa State University, and married their senior year on December 27, 1957. They would have three children: Michele, Timothy, and Daniel all born in the decade of the 1960s.
After serving in the U.S. Army at Ft. Lee in Petersburg, Va., Manatt studied at and graduated from George Washington University where he served on the Law Journal. During his law school studies, he also worked at the Democratic National Committee's Young Democrats office, campaigning for the John F. Kennedy Campaign of 1960 and serving as a Young Democrat advocate for the Civil Rights Act and the founding of the Peace Corps.
The Manatt family moved from Washington to Los Angeles in 1962 after Manatt was hired to be an associate at the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers by Warren Christopher, later the U.S. Secretary of State.
In 1964, Manatt branched out on his own when he co-founded the Manatt Phelps law firm with fellow Iowan Tom Phelps. In its 46 years, Manatt Phelps & Phillips has become a national legal powerhouse, with over three hundred lawyers in offices in eight cities in California, New York, and Washington, DC.
Manatt drew on his expertise as a banking lawyer in 1974 when he co-founded First Los Angeles Bank, a financial institution which thrived until its acquisition by the San Paolo Bank of Turin, Italy in 1981.
Demand for his counsel grew, and he was asked to serve on several corporate boards, including Flying Tigers, FedEx, and Comsat, among others.
Also in the early 1970s, Manatt deepened his political activism, serving as California Democratic Party Chairman and Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
In 1981, Manatt was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. As DNC Chairman, Manatt spearheaded the modernization of the party, including the construction of the Democratic National Headquarters, building the party's first in-house media studio, and establishing IT infrastructure including first ever computerization and computerized direct mail systems. As chair he also advocated the greater involvement of elected officials in the party's presidential selection process through the Hunt Commission, resulting in the DNC's superdelegate system.
Manatt was also known for his bipartisanship on issues such as promotion of democracy around the world. He worked with the Reagan Administration to help found the National Endowment for Democracy and the various organizations it funds, including the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the Center for International Private Enterprise.
President Bill Clinton nominated Manatt to be United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, in which role he served from 1999-2001. As U.S. envoy to the Caribbean nation, Manatt helped establish the first ever "navales auxiliares," a coast guard prepared to respond to natural disasters and help in counternarcotics operations. He also was a passionate advocate for closer trade and commercial ties. His advocacy contributed to the passage by the U.S. Congress of DR-CAFTA Trade Agreement in 2006.
Throughout his career, Manatt never forgot his native Iowa. Beginning in the late 1960s, Manatt began investing in farmland with his father back in Cass and Audubon Counties, including farms that had been in his family since the 1880s. Today the Manatt family farms include over 2000 acres of some of America's most productive cropland.
In the latter years of his life, Manatt focused increasingly on philanthropy, serving on charitable boards including the Mayo Clinic and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and endowing scholarships and academic programs at his alma maters, Iowa State University and George Washington University and through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Kathleen; daughter Michele of McLean, Va.; son Fr. Timothy Manatt, S.J. of Minneapolis, MN; and son Daniel, of Bethesda, Md. and by three grandchildren -- Victoria Anders, Patrick Anders, and Allison Manatt.
The Manatt family prefers memorials to one of these charities:
The Audubon Community Foundation, c/o Omaha Community Foundation, 302 South 36th Street, Suite 100, Omaha, NE 68131 Phone: (402) 342-3458
The Charles T. Manatt Troop 103 Fund, Boy Scouts of America Troop 103, c/o Scoutmaster Dave Albers, 119 Second Avenue, Audubon, Iowa 50025
Institute of Latin American Concern (ILAC) in the Dominican Republic, Creighton University, Criss III Building, Room 262, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE 68178, Phone: (402) 280-3179.
Published in AUDUBON COUNTY ADVOCATE JOURNAL from Aug. 4 to Aug. 12, 2011