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Payne Whitney's Geni Profile

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William Payne Whitney

Birthdate: (51)
Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Death: May 25, 1927 (51)
Manhasset, Nassau, NY, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of William Collins Whitney, U.S Secretary of the Navy and Flora Whitney (Payne)
Husband of Helen Julia Whitney
Father of Joan Payson and John Hay Whitney, United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Brother of Harry Payne Whitney; Pauline Payne Paget and Dorothy Payne Straight (Whitney)

Managed by: Gene Daniell
Last Updated:

About Payne Whitney

William Payne Whitney was a wealthy American businessman and member of the influential Whitney family.

The son of William C. Whitney and Flora Payne, and younger brother to Harry, he was known throughout his life by his middle name.

Payne Whitney attended Groton School and then Yale University. There, he was a member of Skull and Bones, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and captained the Yale rowing team. In later years, he helped finance the team, including donating funds to build a dormitory for the crew. After graduating in 1898, Whitney then studied law at the Harvard Law School, receiving his Bachelor of Laws in 1901.

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.

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Payne Whitney's Timeline

March 20, 1876
New York, NY, USA
February 5, 1903
Age 26
New York, New York, United States
August 17, 1904
Age 28
Ellsworth, Hancock, ME, USA
May 25, 1927
Age 51
Manhasset, Nassau, NY, USA