Family Tree Tuesday – Whitney Willard Straight
Air Commodore Whitney Willard Straight was a Grand Prix motor racing driver, aviator and businessman. He became a well known Grand Prix motor racing driver and competed at events in the UK and Europe. He started competing in 1931 with a Brooklands Riley competing at Shelsley Walsh, Southport and Brooklands circuit. Straight formed his own motor racing team in 1934, personally driving to victory in the South African Grand Prix, held on the 16-mile Buffalo circuit in East London. He competed in more Grands Prix than any American until after World War II.
Straight’s passion was also flying, he had already accumulated over 60 hours solo flight while he was 16 years old, which was still too young for a pilot’s license. In 1936 he helped develop the Miles Whitney Straight aircraft. During World War II, Straight served as a Royal Air Force pilot. He was awarded the Norwegian War Cross with sword for his service in Norway. He later became managing director and Chief Executive Officer of British Overseas Airways Corporation.
Whitney Straight was born in New York on November 6, 1912 to Major Willard Dickerman Straight and heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney. He became a naturalized British citizen in 1936. The Whitney family is notable for their social prominence, wealth, business enterprises and philanthropy.
He married Lady Daphne Margarita Finch-Hatton in 1935 who was the daughter of the 14th Earl of Winchilsea, and they had two daughters. Straight had a son, Barney Barnato Walker with aviatrix Diana Barnato Walker, the first British woman to break the sound barrier.
Straight’s maternal grandfather, William Collins Whitney served as Secretary of the Navy in the first Cleveland adminstration from 1885 through 1889. He was a major investor in thoroughbred horse racing.
Whitney Straight’s sister was American theatre, film and television actress Beatrice Whitney Straight. In 1976 she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film Network. Hers remains the shortest acting performance in a film to win an Oscar, she was on screen for five minutes and forty seconds.
See how you’re related to Whitney Straight and his family!