Bernard Mannes Baruch was born in South Carolina to a German-Jewish emigrant father, Simon Baruch, who became a renowned surgeon for the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and his wife Isabelle Wolfe. The family moved to New York City when Bernard was about 10 years old. He was always proud of his Southern heritage and retained his Southern accent all his life. Baruch attended public schools and graduated from City College of New York in 1889. His first job was as an errand office boy in the banking and financial district, earning three dollars a week. He became enamored of Wall Street and invested all his effort and time in learning the business. He rose to become a broker and then a partner in the firm of A. A. Housman and Company. He got the opportunity to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and became a millionaire by the time he was 30 years old. Baruch left Housman to open his own firm, Baruch Brothers, in partnership with his brother Hartwig. In the following years he lost his fortune and made it back several times. In 1897, he married Annie Griffin, with whom he had three children: Belle, who was named for his mother; Bernard Mannes, Jr.; and Renee.
By 1910, Bernard Baruch had become one of Wall Street's financial leaders. When President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected and World War I was on the horizon, he called on Baruch for expertise on the nation's economy and industrial resources. After the war, Baruch continued as an adviser to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman. He became known as the "elder statesman" and "the Park Bench Statesman" due to his fondness for conferring with government officials on a bench in Lafayette Park near the White House or Central Park in NYC. Over a period of several years, Baruch purchased 17,000 acres of historic plantation land for Hobcaw Barony, his retreat near Georgetown, South Carolina, where he entertained presidents and other distinguished guests. Bernard Baruch contributed to many charities and colleges, including a gift of one million dollars to Columbia University. Belle Baruch eventually bought Hobcaw Barony from her father. It remains privately owned by the Belle W. Baruch Foundation, and is also known as Bellefield Plantation; the University of South Carolina and Clemson University use it as an environmental research center. Baruch College, named in his honor, is one of 10 senior colleges of the City University of New York.