Flora Payne Whitney

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Flora Payne Whitney
Born July 27, 1897
New York, New York, U.S.
Died July 18, 1986
Occupation patron of the arts
Spouse(s) Roderick Tower (m. 1920-1925)
George Macculloch Miller III (m. 1927)
Children Pamela Tower (b. 1921)
Whitney Tower (b. 1923)
Flora Miller (b. 1928)
Leverett Miller (b. 1931)
Parent(s) Harry Payne Whitney
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Flora Payne Whitney, also known as Flora Whitney Miller (July 27, 1897 – July 18, 1986), was an American socialite,[1] art collector, and patron of the arts.

Early life[edit]

Whitney was born and raised in New York, New York. Her father was Harry Payne Whitney, a sportsman and heir to the Whitney family fortune, and her mother was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, heiress to a substantial part of the Vanderbilt family fortune. She attended Brearley School in New York and Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, where she met and became close lifelong friends with the artist Kay Sage.

Whitney made her debut on August 4, 1916, at "The Reefs," the Payne-Whitney "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island. She was escorted by Quentin Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, although her father did not approve of young Roosevelt. After the United States entered World War I, Quentin enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Service, and became engaged to Whitney before leaving for duty overseas. The glamorous young couple never married, since Quentin was killed in aerial combat in July, 1918. Love letters exchanged between Flora and Quentin while he was at the front were featured in Edward Renehan's book about TR's sons, The Lion's Pride (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).



Whitney worked closely with her mother, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in the founding and endowing of the Whitney Museum of Art in New York. After her mother's death, Whitney served as President of the Museum from 1941 until 1966, and as Chairman from 1966 through 1974. Whitney's daughter and granddaughter remain active in museum affairs to this day.

Personal life[edit]

In 1920, Whitney married Roderick Tower at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York. He was an aviator who had trained with Quentin Roosevelt at Mineola air field on Long Island. Tower was also a stockbroker, and son of U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Germany Charlemagne Tower, Jr. They had two children: daughter, Pamela Tower (b. 1921) and son, Whitney Tower (b. 1923). The marriage was a failure, however, due to Tower's drinking and infidelity, and they were divorced in 1925. Her great-grandson, Josiah Hornblower,[2] through Whitney Tower's daughter, Alexandra Tower Hornblower Thorne,[3] was featured in the documentary, Born Rich.

In 1927, Whitney married George Macculloch Miller III in Cairo, Egypt. He was a grandson of the founder of forerunner of the United Hospital Fund, George Macculloch Miller. The marriage to "Cully" Miller was long and happy, and Whitney had two more children: Flora (b. 1928) and Leverett (b. 1931).

She died on July 18, 1986.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Society Welcomes Miss Flora Whitney", The New York Times, August 5, 1916.
  • "Flora Whitney Wed to Roderick Tower", The New York Times, April 20, 1920.


  1. ^ "Flora Whitney died in 1986, inevitably wikipeded as a 'wealthy socialite.'" Morris, Edmund (2010). Colonel Roosevelt. New York: Random House. p. 567. ISBN 978-0-375-50487-7. 
  2. ^ "Jocelyn Hunter, Josiah Hornblower". New York Times. September 9, 2007. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Alix Hornblower Becomes a Bride". New York Times. February 4, 1990. Retrieved July 25, 2012.