Don's Blog: Clay Shaw and Rudolf Hecht

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Clay Shaw and Rudolf Hecht

Some readers of my biography of Clay Shaw, Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, have asked about Rudolf Hecht and his relationship with Clay Shaw.

There is much about Hecht in the book, including his very active role on the Boards of Directors of both the International Trade Mart and International House from their inception until his death in early 1956. Hecht made a fortune in banking and shipping, and was well set when Shaw went to work under his supervision.

It is unclear exactly how he and Shaw first met, but Shaw worked for him as early as the spring of 1942, not long before going into the Army. Hecht and Theodore Brent were involved in a wartime shipping company, somewhat separate from the Mississippi Shipping Company, the main shipping company upon whose board both men sat.

Hecht seem to stay a bit behind the scenes in both International House and International Trade Mart, but was very active in decision-making. It is fair to say that nothing major was done without his approval.

While outside of the scope of my book, Hecht apparently was involved in some banking shenanigans leading into the Great Depression or coming out of it. He seemed to have escaped responsibility for many losing their savings, or at least such allegations were made. In one FBI memo I saw, it was said that in the 1930s, the FBI had recommended that Hecht be arrested and indicted for bank fraud, but that the local Federal attorney in New Orleans had shot the recommendation down.

Hecht was known for his world travels and the travelogues he wrote during those trips. In the 1940s, for instance, he made major trips to Africa, Asia, South America, country by country, all corners of the globe. He gave copies of each travelogue to Clay Shaw to read after Hecht returned from each trip. Once, Shaw wrote to him in a memo that he lived "vicariously" through Hecht's writings about such trips.

Hecht is largely forgotten today in New Orleans, like many around International Trade Mart and International House, but he was widely respected in the NOLA business world for most of the first half of last century.

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