Alice’s Godfather

Alice’s godfather, lawyer William Nelson Cromwell, played a huge role in her life. She wrote to her friend Edith Taylor that he was on the board of the Spence School, and he arranged for her to attend this school that changed her life. He was present at her coming out party in New York City, and in 1913, he sailed to Europe on the same ship as her father.  When Joseph De Lamar died, Cromwell was the trustee of his estate. He also served as trustee of Alice’s inheritance.

William Nelson Cromwell was born in New York in 1854, the son of Colonel John Nelson Cromwell and Sarah M. Brokaw Cromwell. He was educated in Brooklyn at public schools and by private tutors, followed by Columbia Law School; he was admitted to the bar in 1876.

Cromwell went on to become one of the great corporate lawyers of his day, with important roles in the creation of the Panama Canal and the organization of the United States Steel Corporation. His fees ranged up to $500,000, and he said that he had more money than he knew what to do with.

He was an active philanthropist, supporting many educational institutions and foundations for the blind. He died of cerebral thrombosis in his New York home in 1948  at age 94. He left most of his $15 million estate to charitable and educational institutions, including Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Amherst, Stanford, Bowdoin, William and Mary, and Dartmouth.

Cromwell served as president of the American Society of the French Legion of Honor and senior partner of Sullivan and Cromwell, the law firm which he established in 1887. He lived in France for many years between the two world wars, and Alice De Lamar saw him there when she was in Paris each year.

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