Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, who inherited millions and made millions more as a horseman, businessman, aviation pioneer and movie producer, has died. He was 93.
The product of two of America's most prominent families, Whitney died Sunday in his sleep at his estate in this upstate horse racing town, said his spokesman, Ed Lewi.Known as "Sonny" to friends, Whitney had been a chairman of Pan American Airways, owner of top thoroughbreds, including two Belmont Stakes winners, and a patron of the arts who maintained seven residences and a Lear jet to fly among them.
"I'm a lucky guy who was born with a proverbial silver spoon in my mouth, who made careers in business, civic and military service and competitive sports," he once said.
A descendent of Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, Whitney was born in Roslyn, N.Y., on Feb. 20, 1899. He attended Groton and Yale. He was a fighter pilot in World War I and returned to the service in World War II.
His father was Harry Payne Whitney, who was the son of William Collins Whitney, founder of the family's horse racing dynasty.
His mother, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, was a sculptor who founded the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. She was a great-granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.