William Henry Vanderbilt, III

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William Henry Vanderbilt, III

Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Death: Died in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States
Cause of death: Lung cancer
Immediate Family:

Son of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I (RMS Lusitania victim) and Ellen Tuck Fitzsimons
Husband of Helen Cook Vanderbilt; Emily Vanderbilt; Anne Colby; Anne Colby Vanderbilt and Hellen Cook
Ex-husband of Emily Davies Vanderbilt Thayer Whitfield
Father of <private> Cook; <private> Dickens (Cook); <private> Hall (Cook); <private> Cook; <private> Cook and 11 others
Brother of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, II and George Washington Vanderbilt, III
Half brother of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, II and George Washington Vanderbilt III

Managed by: Darlene Patricia Potts
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Henry Vanderbilt, III


William Henry Vanderbilt III (November 24, 1901 – April 14, 1981) was an American Republican politician and a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.


Born in New York City, he was the son of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and Ellen French. Vanderbilt's father was a great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who founded the family fortune in railroads and shipping. William Vanderbilt's parents divorced in 1908 and through his father's second marriage he had two half-brothers, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt II, and George Washington Vanderbilt III. In 1915, his father perished in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. In 1934, his cousin on his mother's side, Ellen Tuck French, married John Jacob Astor VI, bringing together two of America's most famous families.

Educated at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island and the Evans School in Mesa, Arizona, he attended Princeton University but dropped out during his first year. In 1940, Vanderbilt received an LL.D. from Bates College. At age of maturity, Vanderbilt inherited a $5 million trust fund plus the 450 acre (1.8 km²) "Oakland Farm" in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, one of his father's estates that included a number of thoroughbred horses. He made the farm his permanent home, and in 1925 started a bus company, carrying passengers between Newport and Providence. Within a few years he expanded the business to serve points throughout New England and New York. A member of the United States Republican Party, in 1928 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Rhode Island and that year was elected to the State Senate.

Vanderbilt married Emily O'Neill Davies, granddaughter of Daniel O'Neill, owner of the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper, and daughter of Frederick Martin Davies on 1 November 1923 at Grace Church, New York. Emily was the grandniece of Frederick Townsend Martin, a prominent writer of the 1920s. The couple gave birth to a daughter, Emily "Paddy" Vanderbilt on 12 May 1925 in New York.[1] The couple's marriage was troubled and Emily sued for divorce in Paris in the summer of 1926, but reconciled. She again sued for divorce in Newport, Rhode Island which was granted in June, 1928.

William Henry Vanderbilt III served in the Rhode Island State Senate for six years then took time off to be with his sick wife, Anne Gordon Colby. On her recovery, he re-entered political life and successfully ran for Governor of Rhode Island, serving between 1939 and 1941. However, his refusal to dole out patronage to fellow Republicans weakened his power base and a scandal over wire-tapping by a private detective firm he had hired to investigate election fraud, cost him re-election. Shortly thereafter, when the United States entered World War II, Vanderbilt joined the United States Navy.

He eventually left Rhode Island and moved to a farm in South Williamstown, Massachusetts. He died on April 14, 1981 at the age of 79.

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William Henry Vanderbilt, III's Timeline

November 24, 1901
New York, New York, United States
April 14, 1981
Age 79
Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States