Robert Whiteman, who lived a long and truly accomplished life as a concert violinist, inventor, and expert in licensing intellectual property and marketing died peacefully on September 10, 2017. The longtime resident of Rye was 91.
Born November 1, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia, he was the son of Arthur and Rosebud Whiteman. Bob, as he was called, was a child prodigy who at the age of 10 was invited to play the violin for President Franklin Roosevelt at the White House. Seven years later he moved to New York to attend the Julliard School of Musical Art and later was a founding member of the New York String Quartet, playing Carnegie Hall and touring nationally.
While still in his twenties, he co-produced Broadway shows, invented board games, candy bars, and food products. During this period, he met and became a protégé of Robert Ripley, who was intrigued with Bob’s marketing ideas for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This led to a fifty-year relationship during which Bob was the primary licensing agent for the Ripley organization, including the production of three television series that are still being broadcast around the world.
Simultaneously, he was the owner and CEO of Liberty Library Corporation, the holder of the copyrights for Liberty Magazine, which was published from 1925 through 1950. Over 120 major motion pictures have been produced based on stories that appeared in Liberty. Through his management and curating of the Liberty Library, Mr. Whiteman helped establish landmark copyright case law that still governs the licensing of intellectual property.
Retirement was not part of his vocabulary and his office was open until the day he died.
According to many of his friends, Bob’s other “business interest” was gin rummy and he was a formidable competitor whose win-loss record could not be explained by good luck. He loved to share his card-playing skills with his children and grandchildren, and they will carry on this family tradition.
In addition to Bettye, his loving wife of nearly 70 years, Mr. Whiteman is survived by his daughters, Dale Pinto and her husband James and Caren Kline and her husband Peter; his eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His son Robert and his wife Cindy passed away in 2014.
“Everyone in the family is truly grateful for the wonderful team of staff and caregivers whose loyalty and support have been truly extraordinary over the years. The kindness and compassion shown by Paulo, Simone, Soraia, Living, Eros, Mariangelas, and Norma is appreciated beyond words.”
A Celebration of Life service for Mr. Whiteman was held September 14 at Rye Presbyterian Church.