Flora Payne Whitney

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Flora Payne Whitney
Flora Payne Whitney (Mrs. Roderick Tower).jpg
Born(1897-07-27)July 27, 1897
Died18 July 1986(1986-07-18) (aged 88)
EducationBrearley School
Foxcroft School
OccupationPatron of the arts
Roderick Tower
(m. 1920; div. 1925)

George Macculloch Miller III
(m. 1927; died 1972)
Children4, including Whitney Tower and Flora Miller Biddle
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 artist and socialite,[1] art collector, and patron of the arts.

Early life[edit]

Flora Payne Whitney was born on July 27, 1897 and raised in Manhattan. Her father was Harry Payne Whitney (1872–1930), a sportsman and heir to the Whitney family fortune, and her mother was Gertrude Vanderbilt (1875–1942), 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.


During World War I, she worked with Ruth Hanna McCormick, wife of Senator Joseph M. McCormick, at the Washington headquarters of the Republican Women's National Executive Committee.[2]

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]

On August 4, 1916, Whitney made her debut at "The Reefs," the Payne-Whitney "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island.[3] 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).

In 1920, Whitney married Roderick Tower at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York.[4] He was an aviator who had trained with Quentin Roosevelt at Mineola air field on Long Island.[5] Tower was also a stockbroker, and son of U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Germany Charlemagne Tower Jr.[6] The marriage was a failure, however, due to Tower's drinking and infidelity.[7] Before their divorce in August 1925, they had two children together:

  • Pamela Tower (b. 1921), who married Jay Ketchum Secor (1912–1960) in 1941.[8] They divorced in 1950 and she later married Thomas LeBoutillier (1913–1979)
  • Whitney Tower (1923–1999)

In 1927, Whitney married George Macculloch Miller III (d. 1972)[9] in Cairo, Egypt.[2] Miller was an artist and member of the architectural firm of Noel & Miller, from 1930 to 1948,[9] and a grandson of George Macculloch Miller (1832–1917), the founder what would become the United Hospital Fund. The marriage to "Cully" Miller was long and happy, and Whitney had two more children:

  • Flora Miller (b. 1928), who married Michael Henry Irving[9] She later married Sydney Francis Biddle (1918–2004)
  • Leverett Saltonstall Miller (b. 1931)

She died on July 18, 1986 at Community Hospital in Glen Cove, New York.[10]


Whitney's grandson John LeBoutillier is a political columnist and commentator and a one-term U.S. Representative representing a Long Island district. Her great-grandson, Josiah Hornblower (son of Whitney Tower's daughter, Alexandra Tower Hornblower Thorne) was featured in the documentary Born Rich.[11][12]

Family tree[edit]


  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. ^ a b "MRS. TOWER TO WED IN CAIRO TODAY | Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney to Marry G. MacCulloch Miller". The New York Times. February 24, 1927. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  3. ^ "SOCIETY WELCOMES MISS FLORA WHITNEY | Mr. and Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney Present Their Daughter at Newport Dance. | RECEIVE IN NEW BALLROOM | Season's Debutantes Dined by Mr. and Mrs. Taller - Many Give Dinner Parties". The New York Times. August 5, 1916. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  4. ^ "FLORA WHITNEY WED TO RODERICK TOWER | Society Throng in St. Bartholomew's at Her Marriage to Ex-Ambassador's Son. | REV. DR. PARKS OFFICIATES | Bridal Procession Led by Ushers Followed by Five Little Cousins of Bride—Reception at Whitney Home". The New York Times. April 20, 1920. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  5. ^ "FLORA WHITNEY TO WED R. TOWER | Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Whitney Engaged to Son of Ex-Ambassador. | SHE WAS A WAR WORKER | Bridegroom-to-Be, a Member of New York Stock Exchange, Was a Captain in Air Service". The New York Times. February 7, 1920. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  6. ^ "FLORA P. WHITNEY TO MARRY ON APRIL 19". The New York Times. March 30, 1920. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  7. ^ "MRS. RODERICK TOWER GETS DIVORCE IN PARIS | Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney Accused Husband of Desertion". The New York Times. August 7, 1925. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  8. ^ "NUPTIALS ARE HELD OF PAMELA TOWER | Kin of Commodore Vanderbilt Married in Aiken Church to Jay Ketcham Secor | WEARS AN HEIRLOOM VEIL | Her Gown of Slipper Satinu Miss Flora Miller Maid of Honor for Half-Sister". The New York Times. December 21, 1941. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Times, Special To The New York (12 September 1972). "GEORGE M. MILLER, ARTIST, DIES AT 85". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  10. ^ Howe, Marvine (19 July 1986). "FLORA WHITNEY MILLER IS DEAD; WAS ART MUSEUM CHAIRMAN". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Jocelyn Hunter, Josiah Hornblower". The New York Times. September 9, 2007. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  12. ^ "Alix Hornblower Becomes a Bride". The New York Times. February 4, 1990. Retrieved July 25, 2012.


  • "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.