President Donald Trump’s father, the son of German immigrants, started the real estate and construction business his son now runs.
Fred Trump, who died in 1999 at the age of 93, was a controversial figure during his life and after his death, noted for his success, but also for his alleged racial discrimination against potential tenants. Donald Trump has said, “My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy,” according to the Washington Post. But President Trump has for years called himself a self-made man.
In October 2018 The New York Times reported that Donald Trump and his siblings helped their parents dodge taxes and that the president received the equivalent of $413 million from his father’s real estate business. The Times cited a “vast trove” of confidential tax returns and financial documents in saying President Trump participated in “dubious tax schemes” and “outright fraud.” Through his attorney, Trump has denied any wrongdoing and said the $413 million figure is inaccurate. Trump has said he received only a small loan from his father to start his own business.
According to The Times, the financial records show that the Trump children set up a fake corporation to help hide millions of dollars in gifts from their parents. Attorney Charles Harder said in a statement, “President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters. The affairs were handled by other Trump family members who were not experts themselves and therefore relied entirely upon the aforementioned licensed professionals to ensure full compliance with the law.” Trump and his family members cannot be charged in connection with the alleged wrongdoing reported by The Times, but civil penalties could still be brought against them. You can read the full Times report here.
Here’s what you need to know about Fred Trump:
1. He Started His Family’s Real Estate Development Business When He Was 22
Frederick Christ Trump was born on October 11, 1905, in New York, the son of Fredrick Trump and Elizabeth Christ Trump. Donald Trump’s grandfather was born in Germany and immigrated to North America in 1885 at the age of 16. He moved to Seattle during the Gold Rush, where he ran restaurants before moving to Canada, where he opened a hotel and restaurant, according to a CBC article.
The restaurant offered more than food, Gwenda Blair, who authored a book about the Trump family, told the CBC. “The bulk of the cash flow came from the sale of liquor and sex.”
Donald Trump’s grandfather died in 1918 when Frede Trump was a teenager. In 1927, Fred Trump, Trump’s father, started Elizabeth Trump & Son Co., the real estate company that would become The Trump Organization, according to his New York Times obituary. He began building houses in Queens, New York, and then constructed barracks and apartments for U.S. Navy personnel along the East Coast during World War II.
He continued to build the company, constructing low-income apartments and row houses in Brooklyn and Queens. Donald Trump joined the company in 1968, when he was 22. Fred Trump lent his son money and allowed him to go into the real estate business in Manhattan, according to the Times.
“It was good for me,” Donald Trump told the Times. “You know, being the son of somebody, it could have been competition to me. This way, I got Manhattan all to myself!”
According to the October 2018 investigation by The Times, “By age 3, (Donald Trump_ was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. In his 40s and 50s, he was receiving more than $5 million a year.”
The Times also reports that Trump’s claim that he received a $1 million loan from his father is false. The newspaper reports, “In fact, The Times found, Fred Trump lent his son at least $60.7 million, or $140 million in today’s dollars. Much of it was never repaid, records show.”
2. He Was Reportedly Arrested at a KKK Rally in 1927
In September, a 1927 article in the New York Times was uncovered by the website BoingBoing that appears to show that Fred Trump was arrested during a KKK rally in New York.
The Times article listed Fred Trump’s name and an address where he is known to have lived as one of seven men arrested “in the near-riot of the parade.” The men were accused of assaulting a police officer. He was eventually released from custody, according to the article.
In an interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump said the incident never happened:
It never happened. And by the way, I saw that it was one little website that said it. It never happened. And they said there were no charges, no nothing. It’s unfair to mention it, to be honest, because there were no charges. They said there were charges against other people, but there were absolutely no charges, totally false. Somebody showed me that website — it was a little website and somebody did that. By the way, did you notice that there were no charges? Well, if there are no charges that means it shouldn’t be mentioned. Because my father, there were no charges against him, I don’t know about the other people involved. But there were zero charges against him. So assuming it was him — I don’t even think it was him, I never even heard about it. So it’s really not fair to mention. It never happened.
Trump also complained about the attention the story received, “It comes out on a website and you are going to write it on The New York Times? It shouldn’t be written because it never happened, No. 1. And No. 2, there was nobody charged.”
3. He Married a Scottish Immigrant in 1936 & Had 5 Children
Fred Trump married his wife, a Scottish immigrant named Mary Anne MacLeod, in 1936. She was born on the Scottish island of Lewis in 1912 and met Fred Trump while on a trip to New York.
Mary Trump was naturalized in 1942. Together they had five children, including Donald Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry (a federal judge), Frederick Jr., Elizabeth and Robert. Fred Trump Jr. died in 1981/
4. He Was Sued by the U.S. Justice Department for Refusing to Rent His Apartments to Black People
The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed sued Fred Trump and his company in 1973 for refusing to rent apartments to black people. According to the Village Voice, the Urban League sent white and black testers to apartments owned by Trump. The white applicants received the apartments, while the blacks didn’t.
Trump negotiated a consent decree with the DOJ, requiring him to advertise vacancies in minority papers and list them with the Urban League. The Justice Department said, “racially discriminatory conduct by Trump agents has occurred with such frequency that it has created a substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity.”
5. He Died in 1999 With a Net Worth Between $250-300 Million
Fred Trump suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and became sick with pneumonia in 1999. He died in June of that year.
According to his obituary in the New York Times, Fred Trump had a net worth of between $250 to $300 million when he died. He was known as a frugal man, despite his wealth.
“According to his sons, he would routinely drive his Cadillac to one of his many construction sites after the day’s work was over,” the Times said in the obituary. “Wearing a natty suit — with his chiseled features and wide grin, he resembled a silent-film star — he would walk through the studs and across the plywood floors, picking up unused nails to hand back to his carpenters the next day.”