David Lawrence Cole (1902 –
February 25, 1978) was an American labor
mediator who served as the second Director of the Federal
Mediation and Conciliation Service, appointed by President of the United
States Harry S. Truman
in 1952 to succeed Cyrus S. Ching
Cole was one of the early pioneers in arbitrating labor disputes,
working as the "third man" in negotiations involving the New York City Subway
system, the steel
industry and between different unions. Arbitrator Theodore W. Kheel
called Cole "the world's greatest
arbitrator". Cole described his role as helping parties deal with
problems on their own and "to rely less and less on a third party".
addition to serving locally in labor negotiations and committees in
the New York Tri-State Region and
Pennsylvania, Cole served in the labor mediation field under
every US President from Franklin
Early life and education
born in 1902 in Paterson, New Jersey, where his father was a silk manufacturer.
graduated from Harvard
University in 1921 and received a Bachelor of Laws in 1924 from Fairleigh
Dickinson University (from which he later received a Doctor of Laws degree in 1964).
returned to Paterson to work as an attorney for companies in the
industry, starting in 1926. Cole's son described how the fact that
companies there had their looms "trucked out of town as an answer
to the union" led his father to "gravitate to the middle of the
Cole first became involved in national labor issues when it was
suggested that he become involved in a dispute regarding the steel
industry that threatened to overturn wage controls established
during World War II
. Philip Murray,
president of the United
and later head of the Congress of Industrial
, rejected Cole for the role. After Cole
challenged him about the rejection and Murray explained that the
concern was that he was too close to management, Cole had Murray
confirm his credentials with New Jersey union leaders, and got the
post after the original objections were withdrawn.
Cole was known for tracking negotiations using four pens with
different colors of ink, using a different color to track each
side's stance and his own notes. The detailed and colorful tracking
of the negotiations helped Cole convince both labor and management
that he was ensuring that both sides were heard.
Cole's most-treasured objects was a signed poster from Marc Chagall, given to him by the artist after
Cole helped break a stalemate in negotiations to ensure that the
new Metropolitan Opera facility
in Manhattan's Lincoln Center for the Performing
Arts opened successfully in 1966.
He served as president of the National Academy of
and as a trustee of both the American Arbitration
and the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace
Cole died at age 75 on January 25, 1978, at his home in Paterson.
He was survived by his wife, Helen, as well as a daughter, two
sons, and five grandchildren.