Sam Aldrich, as he has been known since his first day of school at St. Paul’s, is the son of Winthrop W. Aldrich, the head of Chase National Bank, then the largest bank in the world. Sam’s aunt Abigail (Winthrop W. Aldrich’s sister) was married to John D. Rockefeller Jr. Growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Aldrich earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, where he majored in American history and government, and a juris doctor from Harvard Law School.
He practiced law only briefly, as an associate for three years at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, in Manhattan, serving the public in numerous prominent positions thereafter. As a member of the Parks Association of New York City, he was lead plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against the New York City Controller that prevented land acquired for parks use to be sold to a private developer. He left Milbank in 1956 to work for the New York City Police Commissioner, where he was promoted Deputy Commissioner of the NYTD’s Division for Youth. In 1960 Aldrich received a Masters in Public Administration from NYU after years of night school.
The topic of his master’s thesis was “A Centralized, Coordinated Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for New York City.” During this period he also taught a course in Puerto Rican juvenile law at Baruch, City University. In 1960, Rockefeller recruited him to head a newly formed Division of Youth. In that position he came to know and respect Lou Pierro, the field rep in Hudson. After three years, Aldrich became Rockefeller’s executive assistant, with a leadership role in civil rights. When he joined the campaign to save Olana, he was running for U.S. Congress in the 28th district, which included Columbia County. (losing [in the primary] to Hamilton Fish, Jr.) and adopted the cause of Olana as part of his campaign. He served as the president of Olana Preservation, Inc. Following his Congressional campaign, Aldrich became Parks Commissioner for New York State, and after that president of the Brooklyn Center of Long Island University, among other positions.