William Henry Vanderbilt


William Henry Vanderbilt Famous memorial

Staten Island, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, USA
Death 14 Apr 1981 (aged 79)
Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 40573555 View Source

Governor of Rhode Island. Son of Alfred G. Vanderbilt I (1877 – 1915), and Ellen Tuck Vanderbilt, later Fitzsimons, (1879-1948); great-great-grandson of 'Commodore' Cornelius Vanderbilt ( 1794-1877 ), founder of the family fortune. Educated at St. George's School, in Rhode Island, and Princeton University, he was appointed at age 15 to serve in the U.S. Naval Coast Defense Reserve during World War I, making him one of the youngest Americans to have served in the war. In 1922, at the age of 21, the then legal age of majority, he inherited a five million dollar trust fund, which he would go one to increase that by ten times, and his father's, and before that his grandfather, 'Oakland Farm', a 450-acre estate in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In 1925 he started a coach bus company called 'The Short Line' which would carry passengers between Newport and Providence. Expanding The Short Line throughout New England and New York, he sold it to George Sage in 1955. A member of the Republican Party, in 1928 he served as delegate to the Republican National Convention from Rhode Island, being elected to the State Senate later that year. Serving as state senator from 1929-1935, he took time off to be with his ailing wife. In 1938 he was elected as Governor of Rhode Island (1939-1941). In 1941 he was called to active duty with the rank of lieutenant commander and was initially assigned to the Panama Canal Zone. Promoted in 1942 to commander, he was later again promoted to the rank of captain prior to the end of the war. Following the Vanderbilt tradition of summering in Rhode Island and wintering elsewhere, he purchased a large farm in upper Williamstown, Massachusetts, which turned into a lush and fruitful estate. Designing a sprawling mansion at the center of the estate, he surrounded the home with numerous outbuildings, a swimming pool, green house and a private putting green. Devoting his final years to philanthropy, he gave away most of his inherited Vanderbilt money to various charities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. On Vanderbilt's death, from cancer, in 1981, these homes were Sold, demolished and subdivided.

Bio by: John Astor

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