Kling, 79, was philanthropist, businessman


S. Lee Kling, a businessman, philanthropist in both the Jewish and general communities of St. Louis, and a longtime leader in the Democratic Party, died Saturday, July 26, 2008, at his home in Country Life Acres. He was 79. The cause of death was lung cancer.

Mr. Kling was chairman of the Kling Co., an insurance consulting and investment firm. He was also for many years board chairman and chief executive officer of Landmark Bancshares Corp., which was purchased by another bank in 1991.

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Among the many philanthropic and civic organizations in which Mr. Kling was an active member and generous supporter were the Jewish Federation of St. Louis; Jewish Hospital and later Barnes/Jewish Hospital. He was the chairman of the board of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, and in that role helped fund the Goldfarb School of Nursing and the Kling Center for Proton Therapy, scheduled to open next year. Mr. Kling had successfully undergone proton therapy for an eye tumor in Boston. The Kling Center will be the first to administer proton therapy in the Greater St. Louis area.

Mr. Kling also served on the board of the Regional Commerce and Growth Association. He also served on the boards of the St. Louis Blues Hockey Club, Tiffany Industries and Reed Shaw Stenhouse, Ltd., among others. He was a member of Temple Emanuel, Temple Israel, the Westwood Country Club, the St. Louis Club, and the Standard Club of Chicago.

Mr. Kling was widely admired for his many civic, philanthropic and community leadership positions. Marshall Myers, first vice president/wealth management for Smith-Barney Citigroup Global Market, recalls having worked with Mr. Kling both professionally and as a volunteer. “Lee Kling was an exceptional community leader. He combined personal charm and people skills with professionalism and a proven track record of leadership in both philanthropic and business activities.”

Mr. Kling was also warmly praised by Eric E. Vickers, spokesperson for the Minority Inclusion Alliance in a letter to the editor in the July 30, 2008 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Nine years ago this month, Mr. Kling, then-chairman of the Missouri Highway Commission, assembled the diverse and warring groups in the local construction industry to create the Construction Prep Center. The CPC, which now has matriculated nearly 1,000 minorities into the construction industry, was born from the fusion of the heat of a July 1999 protest that shut down Interstate 70 at morning rush hour, and Mr. Kling’s unflappable cool in dissecting the issue, helped in patiently guiding all the parties through to a lasting resolution … Every time I pass the highway and see one of those young men or women gainfully working in their hard hats, I will remember and thank Mr. Kling for the caring and magnificent leadership that has transformed their lives.”

Mr. Kling was a major leader in the Democratic Party at the local, state and national levels. He served as finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee from 1973-1977; was co-chairman of the Democratic House and Senate Campaign Annual Dinner in 1977 and served in President Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign in 1980. He was twice treasurer of U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt’s presidential committee. He received the Democratic National Committee’s Distinguished Service Award in 1982. He was on close personal terms with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and with Missouri’s U.S. Senators Stuart Symington, Thomas F. Eagleton and Claire McCaskill.

In a statement issued last weekend, McCaskill said, “So often people who are wildly successfuly in business have no time for politics beyond their own self-interest. Lee Kling was the exception to that rule. He cared deeply about his country and his community and saw his interest in getting good candidates elected as his public duty.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gephardt, said last weekend, “Lee Kling was just a wonderful citizen, not only of St. Louis, but of the country and the world. He was very community-minded, he was a great family man, and he generous with all kinds of causes and charitities. He gave of himself to public service in a lot of different ways, and he was a great friend of mine.” The statement appeared in the July 27 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In 1978, Mr. Kling co-chaired a committee for the ratification of the Panama Canal treaties, and in 1979, he served as an economic adviser during the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt.

Steven Leroy (Lee) Kling was born in St. Louis on Dec. 22, 1928, the son of Fred Kling, a garment manufacturer and his wife, Rose. He attended New York Military Academy and graduated from Washington University with a bachelor of science in business administration degree. He served in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1952 and started in the insurance business in the 1950s. In 1979, Mr. Kling was honored as a distinguished alumnus of the Washington University School of Business.

Funeral services were held at Temple Emanuel Congregation followed by a reception at Westwood Country Club. Burial was at the New Mount Sinai Cemetery.

Among the survivors are his wife, Rosalyn Kling, four sons, Stephen, Lee and Allan, all of St. Lois, and Frank, of the Chicago area, and two grandchildren.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis Wyman Center, the St. Louis Zoo or the Moog Center for Deaf Education.