OBIT: William Whyte raised millions for hospital, friend of President Ford

William G. Whyte, 94, a former Vero Beach resident who helped raise millions as chairman of the Indian River Medical Center Foundation and a confidante of President Gerald Ford as well as one of the most powerful Washington lobbyists of his era, died April 21 at Methodist Home of the District of Columbia of congestive heart failure.Whyte traveled the world in a variety of roles, during his lifetime, including 25 years as a U.S. Steele executive, was also involved with a number of civic and business groups. He moved to Vero Beach upon his retirement in 1977. In 1985 he was named president of the Indian River Hospital Foundation where helped raise capital for the medical center. He is credited with creating the high-donor Eagle Society during his tenure, which ended in 1993.

Also during his time in Florida, Whyte maintained an active role in Republican politics as a member of the Indian River County Republican Executive Committee.Whyte moved back to the Washington D.C. area upon the death of his first wife, Peggy in 1997.Whyte served President Ford as member of his “Kitchen Cabinet” and held a secret transition meeting with key Ford Administration officials at his home two days before President Richard Nixon resigned .He was also given the task by the President to put together foursomes of golfers whenever the President wanted to play at the Burning Tree Club in Bethesda, Md.

One of his passions was the Boy Scouts and he served over 20 years with the Boy Scouts of the National Capitol Area Council. He was awarded the Boy Scouts’ highest honor, the Silver Beaver Award. In 1975, Whyte organized the largest Boy Scout fundraiser when President Ford, himself an Eagle Scout, received the Scouter of the Year Award.Whyte was considered one of the pioneers in the corporate public affairs movement, ultimately serving as Vice Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1975-76. Mr. Whyte’s other activities included: founding member of the Business Government Relations Council, President, National Security Industrial Association, and serving with The Federal City Council and promoting the building of the Washington Metro System, The Business Round Table, Business-Industry Political Action Committee, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and The Washington Pension Report Group, working to establish ERISA.After his retirement in 1977 Whyte was appointed World President of the United Service Organizations (USO) from 1982-1984. He traveled around the world paying tribute to the men and women in service to our country while also expanding USO service centers and services to service families. For his service at the USO, Mr. Whyte received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. He served during World War II in General George Patton’s Third Army Quartermaster Group. He was an officer of the “Red Ball Express” moving supplies of food, water and ammunition to the front lines in France and Germany. He retired as a Colonel and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and the French Croix de Guerre. A native of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Illinois in 1937, Whyte worked for the Western Electric Company before the war. Surviving are his two sons, Wm. Kirby Whyte of Glen Echo, Md., and Roger J. Whyte of Chevy Chase, Md.,and their wives, Bonnie and Debbie; five grandchildren: Lindsey, William Kyle, Roger, Ryan and Morgan; stepson David Zoll of Towson, MD and stepdaughter Peg Z. Van Vlack, of Oak Hill, VA and their four step-grandchildren: Merrit Zoll, Mitchell Zoll, Christian Van Vlack and Amelia Van Vlack. His first wife, Peggy Paine Whyte, died in 1997. His second wife, Margaret Zoll Whyte, died in 2008 after 10 years of marriage. Internment with full military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, July 27 at 3 p.m.

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