Jerome Tuccille, who wrote one of the first manifestoes of the American libertarian movement and the first biography of President Trump, died Feb. 16 at his home in Severna Park, Md. He was 79.
As Mr. Tuccille told the tale in “It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand: A Libertarian Odyssey” (1971), he was a disaffected Roman Catholic looking for a new faith when he discovered the writings of Ayn Rand and her radically individualist philosophy, which she called objectivism. “For the moment I considered myself unique, a lone and courageous individual who had found the Holy Grail after years of floundering,” he wrote.
He never subscribed to the full objectivist program — Rand’s views on art and sex were too narrow for his taste — and he found most of the objectivist true believers humorless. But he embraced the political philosophy of minimal government and maximum personal freedom.
Mr. Tuccille became heavily involved with the radical libertarians who, breaking with the William F. Buckley Jr. conservatives over the military draft and foreign intervention, staged a walkout at the Young Americans for Freedom convention in 1969.
In “Radical Libertarianism: A Right Wing Alternative” (1970), he laid out a political program that envisioned an end to conscription, taxes, and government control over education, health services, transportation, and other areas. It also called for the legalization of drugs, prostitution, and pornography.
In an Op-Ed for The New York Times in 1971, Mr. Tuccille called on conservatives “who still care about such things as peace and justice and racial harmony” to vote for candidates “who really mean peace when they say peace; who understand and intend to promote the politics of decentralization, of pollution control, of economic and judicial reform, and so on all the way down the line.”
In 1974, two years after the founding of the Free Libertarian Party, Mr. Tuccille ran for governor of New York. He hoped to win the 50,000 votes that would give the party a permanent place on the ballot, a first step toward becoming the third major political party in the United States.
He fell short by about 20,000 votes, but not for lack of trying.
On the campaign trail he distributed “Tuccille bills” — fake dollar bills that, he assured voters, would soon be worth more than the real thing, given the country’s ruinous economic policies. He arranged for a woman in a beige body stocking to ride through Central Park like Lady Godiva, on a horse named Taxpayer.
Three years later, in an article for the conservative magazine National Review, he wrote the epitaph for libertarianism as a political movement. Although still committed to its ideals, he called it “hopelessly utopian” and “an intellectual exercise, not a serious political alternative.”
Jerome Joseph Tuccille, known as Jerry, was born May 30, 1937, in the Bronx and grew up in the Throgs Neck neighborhood. His father, Salvatore, was a cabdriver. His mother, the former Virginia Marano, was a homemaker.
After graduating from Fordham Preparatory School, a Roman Catholic institution, he enrolled in Manhattan College, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, which was run by the Christian Brothers. He earned a psychology degree in 1959 and then entered the Marine Corps.
Mr. Tuccille also described his encounters with libertarianism and his intellectual development in a sequel, “It Still Begins With Ayn Rand: Part Two of a Libertarian Odyssey” (1999), as well as the memoir “Heretic: Confessions of an Ex-Catholic Rebel” (2006).
Flat broke after running for governor, Mr. Tuccille put on the only suit he owned and walked into the offices of Merrill Lynch, presenting himself as a wealthy prospective client. When the manager agreed to see him, he begged for a job. Thus began his long career as a stockbroker. In the 1990s he became a financial writer for T. Rowe Price.
When not trading stocks, Mr. Tuccille wrote how-to books on investing and a series of biographies, beginning in 1985 with “Trump: The Saga of America’s Most Powerful Real Estate Baron.”
Denied access to his subject, members of Trump’s family, and most of his associates, Mr. Tuccille relied heavily on newspaper and magazine accounts to produce what Michael Sterne, writing in The New York Times Book Review, called “a gee-whizzer of a biography” that “points to a key to Trump’s career — his ability to turn political friendships, tax abatements, and government loans into opportunities for profit.”
After his Trump biography, he wrote “Rupert Murdoch” (1989), “Barry Diller: The Life and Times of a Media Mogul” (1998) and “Alan Shrugged: Alan Greenspan, the World’s Most Powerful Banker” (2002).
Politically, Mr. Tuccille remained what his son called “a borderline anarchist.” In “The Gospel According to Ayn Rand” (2007), a revised and updated version of “It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand,” Tuccille wrote: “The battle to sustain the Bill of Rights is more challenging now than ever; the fight for freedom is far from over. In many ways things have gotten worse over the decades. Government is grotesquely big, taxes are too high, civil liberties are getting crimped a bit tighter every day.”