SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, the wealthy entrepreneur who founded Pan Am Airways and co-produced the movie 'Gone With the Wind,' died Sunday morning at his Saratoga Springs estate. He was 93.
Whitney died in his sleep at about 8:30, said Edward Lewi, an Albany, N.Y., public relations executive and friend of Whitney. The cause of death was not immediately known, Lewi said.
Whitney was an avid sportsman, thoroughbred racehorse trainer and artist who flew military airplanes in Wold War I and served as undersecrtetary of commerce under President Harry Truman.
Along with his cousin, John Hay Whitney, he co-produced the movies 'Gone With the Wind,' 'Rebecca' and 'A Star is Born.'
Whitney and his wife Marie Louise, known as 'Marylou' in the high- society social circle of Saratoga Springs, never said publicly how much they were worth.
'He's always been called a millionaire, of course, but they didn't say much,' Lewi said.
Whitney owned a 540-acre horse farm in Kentucky and 85,000 acres in New York's Adirondack Mountains. He once described his life as being filled with 'high peaks,' an apparent reference to the name of the highest range of mountains in the Adirondacks, and had said he was most comfortable camping or fishing in hunting boots, flannel shirts and old hats.
He inherited from his father, Harry Payne Whitney, a stable of star thoroughbreds in Lexington, Ky., and went on to train more stakes winners than any other U.S. trainer.
A painter and patron of the arts, Whitney fostered the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, founded by his mother, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and established the Whitney Museum of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Foundation in Cody, Wyo.
He founded the National Museum of Racing, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, summer home of the New York City Ballet, and was a major benefactor of the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga.
Born wealthy in 1899, Whitney nonetheless struck out on his own and had made his own first million by age 26.
He joined the U.S. Signal Corps, forerrunner of the Air Force, in 1916 and served as fighter pilot in World War I.
He graduated from Yale in 1922 and founded the Aviation Corporation of America, later Pan American Airways, five years later.
Whitney resigned as chairman of Pan Am's board of directors in 1941 to re-enlist in the Air Force. He rose to the rank of colonel and served in India, North Africa, Iwo Jima and in Washington and received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and two battle stars.
President Harry Truman named Whitney secretary of the newly independent Air Force in 1947, and promoted him two years later to undersecretary of commerce. He also served as a spcial envoy for Truman and later for President Richard Nixon.
Whitney and his wife were the two largest individual contributors to the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.
He is survived by his wife; a daughter, Cornelia Vanderbilt Whitney Richardson of Ithaca, N.Y.; and four stepchidren, Marion Louise Llewellyn of Bradford-on-Avon, England, Franks Hobbs Hosford of Saratoga Springs, Henry Deere Hosford of New Orleans; and Heather Ann Schlachter of Saratoga Springs.
Whitney is also survived by eight grandchildren and one great- granchild.
Funeral services will be private at the Chapel at Cady Hill, his estate in Saratoga Springs.