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Eugene Robert Black, 93, former World Bank chief

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Eugene Robert Black, 93, a courtly Georgian who became one of the world's most influential figures as president of the World Bank from 1949 to 1962, died Thursday at his home in Southampton, N.Y.

He probably died of heart failure and had suffered kidney failure, said his son, William H. Black.

Mr. Black was a relatively obscure, exceedingly competent Wall Street bond man and banker before rising to head the bank, formally the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

In technical retirement after 13 peripatetic years as banker to the nations outside what was then the Soviet sphere, he became a financial adviser to the United Nations and sat on the boards of many institutions and businesses _ though he gave up almost all such posts as he grew older.

At home and abroad, he benefited from an acute mind, engaging Southern drawl and lack of vanity. He brought a bluntness that disabused heads of state and finance ministers of any notion that he was an international Santa Claus. In banking, his prudence, supported by matter-of-fact information, won him confidence in his judgments.

On the world stage, he embodied America's postwar confidence and high hopes. Though shrewd in assessing an investment project's worth, he took a large view of the developing world. He sought promoted an international social conscience _ a feeling that extreme differences of poverty and wealth were intolerable among nations.

He was born into banking and public life, the son and namesake of a governor of the Federal Reserve Board, and of Gussie Grady Black, daughter of Southern editor and orator Henry Woodfin Grady.