Leonard E. Read (1898 - 1983) was founder in 1946 of the Foundation for Economic Education, probably the first libertarian think tank in the United States.
After a stint in the Air Corps during Word War I, Read started a successful grocery wholesale business in Ann Arbor, but liquidated it as a result of large grocery stores squeezing his market. He moved to California where he started a new career in the tiny Burlingame Chamber of Commerce outside of San Francisco.
Read gradually moved up the US Chamber of Commerce hierarchy, finally becoming general manager of the Los Angeles Chamber, America's largest, in 1939.
During this period his views became progressively more radically libertarian. Apparently, it in 1933, during a meeting with W. C. Mullendore, an executive with Southern California Edison, which finally convinced him that the New Deal was completely inefficient and morally bankrupt.
Read was also profoundly influenced by religion. His pastor, Reverend James W. Fifield, was minister of the 4,000-member First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, of which Read was also a board member. Fifield ran a "resistance movement" against the "social gospel" of the New Deal, trying to convince ministers across the country to adopt libertarian "spiritual ideals".
During the Chamber of Commerce period, Read was also deeply influenced by Albert Jay Nock.
In 1945, Virgil Jordan, the President of the National Industrial Conference Board (NICB) in New York, invited Read to become Executive Vice President. Read very quickly rejected the NICB's principle of presenting two sides to every argument, and shortly afterwards resigned his position.
One donor from his short time at NICB, David M. Goodrich, Chairman of B.F. Goodrich Company, encouraged him to start up his own organisation, and with Goodrich's aid, Read started the FEE in 1946, where he remained until his death in 1983.