Sachs Family Legacy Continues as Walter Sachs Becomes Partner

Theme: Leadership

Harvard Crimson staff, circa 1904. Walter Sachs is seated in the second row, second from left.

In 1910, Walter Sachs becomes a partner of the firm founded by his grandfather Marcus Goldman, where he works alongside his father and brothers. 

Walter Edward Sachs was born in New York City in 1884, the third son of Samuel Sachs and a grandson of Marcus Goldman. Many Saturday mornings as a young man, he accompanied his father from their home on New York’s Upper East Side downtown to the Goldman, Sachs & Co. office at 9 Pine Street. There, he would observe clerks with green eyeshades posting scores of entries into fat ledger books. Afterwards, Samuel Sachs would send his son home with pencils and pads from the office so he could practice his first lessons in figuring interest and discount.

Sachs attended Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1904 and where he was editor of The Crimson, part of a staff that included classmate Franklin D. Roosevelt. Following Harvard, he attended law school for one year, but ultimately found himself drawn back to the family business, joining his father and two older brothers, Paul and Arthur, at Goldman Sachs in 1908.

Shortly after joining the firm, Sachs was sent on the first of many trips Samuel Sachs would arrange to acquaint his son with the firm’s business across the country. His itinerary was to include Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, St. Joseph, and St. Louis. His mission, as described in Sachs’ 1979 autobiography, was “to call on prominent banks in those cities, and to attempt to make new contacts with important merchants and industrial concerns.” While the trip was cut short when Sachs was felled by smallpox, it was the beginning of his distinguished career traveling across the country and the world on behalf of the firm, forging relationships and playing an instrumental role in key financings.

Walter Sachs was named partner in 1910 and became a limited partner in 1959 at the age of 75. Over this time, he held directorships on more than two dozen corporate boards, including those of May Department Stores Co., Merck & Co., and Warner Brothers Pictures. In 1930, Walter Sachs became the president of the Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation and together with Sidney Weinberg took on the task of liquidating the investment trust’s assets.

Throughout his lifetime, Sachs was active in philanthropic and civic affairs. In 1911, he became one of five incorporators of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), for which he served as Treasurer. Sachs was introduced to the organization, then in its infancy, by Oswald Garrison Villard, whom he met through the University Settlement Society, an organization that offered a variety of services to the poor, many of whom were immigrants, on New York City’s Lower East Side.

Sachs’ brother Paul played a formative role in another prominent African American organization, the National Urban League, of which Goldman Sachs client Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., was a financial backer. Discussions with Rosenwald, who was passionate about supporting leading African American colleges, and his work with the University Settlement Society, inspired Walter Sachs’ involvement with the incorporation of the NAACP.

Walter Sachs retired in 1959 and remained a limited partner of Goldman Sachs until his death in 1980 at the age of 96.