- Jock Whitney -

ELEGANTE Whitney Boathouse, Manhasset Bay The motor yacht Elegante was launched at the Whiticar Boatworks Co., Stuart FL in 1964 for the multi-millionaire sportsman, pioneering color-movie producer, venture capitalist, philanthropist, art-collector, diplomat and newspaper publisher John Hay Whitney (1904-1982) colloquially known since childhood as “Jock” Whitney. Elegante replaced Jock Whitney’s 1937 motor yacht Aphrodite and served as a commuter yacht conveying Mr. Whitney from his large two-story boathouse on Manhasset Bay (North Shore, Long Island, NY), westward down Long Island Sound and thru the East River to his Wall Street office or townhouse. During the 40 minute commute, Mr. Whitney would go up to the forward cockpit and read his newspaper the New York Herald Tribune to keep abreast of the day’s news. Elegante’s guest list over the Whitney years reads like a Who’s Who in the worlds of government, business and entertainment.


Heir to a Standard Oil Company fortune formed by his great-uncle Col.Oliver Payne, Standard’s original treasurer, and a New York rapid transit fortune created by his father William C. Whitney, young Jock was raised at the family townhouse at 972 Fifth Avenue, New York (now the Cultural Services Building of the Embassy of France) and at the family country estate Greentree in Manhasset, NY (now the Greentree Foundation Conference Center). A 1926 graduate of Yale, Jock Whitney allegedly coined the term “crew cut” while an oarsman for the Yale crew; Whitney asked his barber for a short military cut which the barber subsequently chose to name in honor of the Yale crew team. After graduation, he attended Oxford where Whitney was remembered as a master horseman. The 1927 death of his father brought Jock back from England to manage the family business interests.


Jock Whitney invested large sums of his inheritance in Broadway shows and in the film industry, with majority shares in the Technicolor Corporation and in Pioneer Pictures. Whitney also became, during the 1930s, the major investor in David O. Selznick’s production company, serving as Chairman of the Board, and putting up half the money to option Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind for film. After service in the US Army Air Forces and the OSS during World War II, Whitney forsook Hollywood and returned his focus to New York where he started the Wall Street investment fund of J.H. Whitney & Co. dealing in what he called “adventure capital”; Jock Whitney later dropped the prefix “ad” to coin the now established financial term: venture capital; Whitney & Co. remains the oldest venture capital firm in the U.S. Another investment, Whitney Communications, owned and operated newspapers, magazines and broadcasting stations; as buyer of the New York Herald Tribune, the-then newspaper of record of the United States, Jock Whitney became its last publisher from 1961 until the paper folded in 1966.


As a sportsman, Whitney also inherited his family’s love of horses, running the Whitney’s Greentree Stables in Red Bank, NJ with his sister Joan Whitney Payson; in 1928 he became the youngest member ever elected to The Jockey Club and by the 1930s entered four horses in the Kentucky Derby. A champion polo player, with a four goal handicap, Jock Whitney made the cover of the March 27, 1933 issue of TIME magazine.


As a major backer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Whitney was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom by President Eisenhower serving from 1957 until 1961 and played a major role in improving Anglo-American relations strained during the 1956 Suez Crisis; his wife, Betsey Cushing (Roosevelt) Whitney renewed her friendship with the Queen Mother whom she had met during the 1939 state visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to her then father-in-law President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Hyde Park, NY.Jock Whitney, Ambassador to the Court of St. James Jock Whitney on his second wife Betsey Cushing


Jock Whitney married Mary Elizabeth Altemus in 1930, they divorced in 1940 and in 1942 he married Betsey Cushing (1908-1998), ex-wife of James Roosevelt and adopted her two daughters Kate and Sarah Roosevelt Whitney. A noted philanthropist, Whitney created the John Hay Whitney Foundation for Educational Projects in 1946 and made major gifts to Yale University; in addition, key French and American paintings from his art collection were donated to the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ABC News Vice President Richard Wald said, on Jock Whitney’s death, that his friend’s major interest in life was the proper organization of society and how to provide for the disadvantaged in a fiscally responsible way.

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By: Paul Miller

Whitney Boathouse, Manhasset Bay

972 Fifth Avenue

Jock Whitney, ambassador to the Court of St. James.

Jock Whitney and his second wife Betsey Cushing.