Portrait of William
Mac Harshberger


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A Gentleman
and a Scholar

June 1, 1915 - January 13, 2004

San Francisco native William W. Whitney, an art historian and former executive director of the California Historical Society, has died. He was 88.

In his final years, Professor Whitney became a trusted advisor and great friend to the Thomas Reynolds Gallery and many of its patrons.

He spent the first 13 years of his life in San Francisco. His family then moved to Southern California, where he graduated from high school and the University of Southern California. He served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.

For much of his career, he taught art history and design at colleges in Southern and Northern California. In 1958 he returned to San Francisco to join the staff of the California Historical Society, where he served as executive director from 1966 to 1970.

He soon found retirement a bore and returned to the classroom, teaching for 18 more years at Chabot College in Hayward.

When he retired again, he immersed himself fully into the art world, determined to secure a place of honor for his cousin, the artist Mac Harshberger, who had been active in New York and Paris during the Art Deco era. Professor Whitney had inherited Harshberger's artistic estate, and with his encouragement, exhibitions of Harshberger's work were held at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami and the Honolulu Academy of Art.

Professor Whitney remained active until the final week of his life, taking daily walks around the neighborhood and maintaining a lively salon most evenings in his art-filled home. He was involved in the Book Club of California, the Attingham Society and the Art Deco Society of California.

He also maintained a home in Dana Point, California, with his partner of 57 years, Frank Persides, who survives him.

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