About William Woodward, Jr.
William "Billy" Woodward, Jr. (June 12, 1920–October 31, 1955) was the heir to the Hanover National Bank fortune (later Manufacturer's Hanover), the Belair Estate and stud farm and legacy, and a leading figure in racing circles before he was shot to death by his wife, Ann Woodward, in what Life magazine called the "Shooting of the Century".
He was the only son of William Woodward, Sr., and his wife Elizabeth Ogden "Elsie" Cryder. His mother was one of the "Cryder triplets" of New York society fame. His father was president and director of the Hanover Bank of New York, and was secretary to the Ambassador to the Court of St. James's during the reign of Edward VII. Woodward Sr. frequented the race track with the King and they developed a close friendship, beginning the Woodward equine legacy.
After graduating from Harvard University, Woodward fought in the Navy during World War II. There, he received a medal for bravery during a torpedo attack on his ship.
After leaving the Navy, Woodward became a director of Hanover Bank. A young, tall, wealthy man, he was considered by some to be the most eligible bachelor in America.
During his naval stint he met Ann Eden Crowell, an actress who also danced as a showgirl in upscale New York nightclubs. There were rumors that Woodward, Sr. had Ann as his mistress first and passed her along to his son. His family was shocked when they married on March 14, 1943.
The marriage was tenuous from the start and the couple fought frequently. He had numerous affairs and she took to social climbing. The couple had two sons.
He eventually became one of America's finest horse breeders. On the senior Woodward's death in 1953, Woodward inherited Belair Mansion and stud farm in Collington, Maryland, the oldest in America, along with the thoroughbred horse Nashua.
The Shooting of the Century
After attending a dinner party for the Duchess of Windsor on October 30, 1955, the couple returned home, nervous about reports of a prowler roaming nearby estates, including their own. The Woodwards were both avid hunters, although Ann was considered a terrible shot, and each went to their separate bedrooms that evening with loaded shotguns. A few hours later Ann heard a noise, went into a darkened hallway with her gun and shot and killed her husband, believing him to be a prowler. Subsequent investigations determined that there had indeed been a prowler in the house that evening. Woodward's mother, however, believed that the shooting had been deliberate, yet stepped in to prevent further scandal. Ann was never charged in the matter. Life Magazine called the episode "The Shooting of the Century".
The story became a cause célèbre. Ann was banished from high society and her sons were sent to boarding school in Europe. The tale, which followed Ann everywhere, was thinly disguised and retold in Truman Capote's novel, Answered Prayers, and Dominick Dunne's novel The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and in the non-fiction book This Crazy Thing Called Love by Susan Braudy.
Ann learned of the impending publication, in Esquire magazine, of Capote's initial version of the story and killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills in 1975. "Well, that's that", said her mother-in-law, "she shot my son, and Truman just murdered her, and so now I suppose we don't have to worry about that anymore."
The two children of the marriage, William "Woody" Woodward III and James Woodward, both committed suicide by jumping from windows: James in 1976, after volunteering to fight in the Vietnam War, then returning home to become a heroin addict with a huge trust fund. Woody died in 1999, overwhemingly upset over his recent divorce.