Born William Payne Whitney, he was known throughout his life by his middle name. The son of William C. Whitney and Flora Payne, and younger brother to Harry. In 1902, he married Helen Hay (1875-1944), the daughter of then-United States Secretary of State (and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom) John Hay. Their Stanford White-designed house at 972 Fifth Avenue was a wedding gift from his maternal uncle, Oliver Hazard Payne. The couple also had an estate, Greentree, in Manhasset, New York. Their son, John Hay Whitney, also served as the Ambassador to the U.K. Daughter Joan, an avid sportsperson, was the first owner of the New York Mets Major League Baseball team.
In addition to a substantial inheritance from his father, Payne Whitney inherited $63,000,000 from his uncle, Col. Oliver Hazard Payne. Amongst his many investments, Whitney had major holdings in banking, tobacco, railroads, mining and oil. He was a member of the board of directors and/or an executive officer of several large corporations, including the City Bank New York, and the Great Northern Paper Company, and the Northern Finance Corporation.
Throughout his life, Payne Whitney was involved in philanthropic work for a variety of causes. A trustee of the New York Public Library in 1923 he gifted the library $12,000,000.
A horse racing enthusiast in the tradition of his father and brother, Payne Whitney's Greentree Stable, named for their Long Island estate, was a very significant racing and breeding operation for thoroughbred horses.
Whitney died in 1927 at his Greentree estate. His will bequeathed more than $20 million to the New York Hospital and smaller amounts to other educational and medical institutions. His estate funds contributed to the establishment of the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in 1932. Although he had contributed $1,000,000 to the Yale Endowment Fund shortly before his death, sufficient estate funds were also given to Yale to enable construction of the 9½ storey Payne Whitney Gym that too was completed in 1932. As a tribute to him, a road in Manhasset was named after him, Payne Whitney Lane.
Helen Julia Hay Whitney
1875–1944 (m. 1902)
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