Carroll Wainwright Jr., Lawyer and Sportsman

Dec. 28, 1925 - Sept. 26, 2016
Carroll Wainwright Jr., Dec. 28, 1925 - Sept. 26, 2016

Carroll Livingston Wainwright Jr., a former attorney for the Rockefellers and volunteer for many nonprofit organizations, died at home in East Hampton on Sept. 26. He was 90 years old and had been in declining health.

Except for a brief stint as assistant general counsel to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller from 1959 to 1960, Mr. Wainwright, who was known as Sonny, spent almost his entire career at the firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. He became a partner there in 1963, focusing on trusts, estates, and not-for-profit institutions, and was heavily involved in Rockefeller family interests, including the Rockefeller Group’s sale of Rockefeller Center in 1989. He also counted among his clients the American Museum of Natural History, Cooper Union, Vassar College, the New York Community Trust, and the Episcopal Church Pension Group.

Mr. Wainwright was born in New York on Dec. 28, 1925, to Carroll L. Wainwright and the former Edith Gould, and grew up there and on West End Road in East Hampton, where his parents had built a house they called Gullcrest. At the age of 8, living in Bermuda at the time, he stowed away on a cruise ship, the Queen of Bermuda, to sail to the U.S. According to his son D. Walker Wainwright, the boy longed for the life his older brother was living at a school in New York. He eventually attended the Malcolm Gordon School in Garrison, N.Y., and St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H.

In 1942, he lied about his age to join the Marine Corps and trained to fly Grumman F4-U planes, though World War II ended before he saw combat. He was discharged from the Marines as a first lieutenant and married Nina Walker in East Hampton in 1948, graduating from Yale College the year after and from Harvard Law School in 1952.

Over the course of his career, Mr. Wainwright volunteered with many organizations. He chaired the board of trustees of the Boys Club of New York from 1986 to 1994 and was a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History from 1968 to 1994, of Cooper Union from 1970 to 1995, and of the U.S. Trust Company from 1981 to 1998.

He also served on the board of the Edward John Noble Foundation, the Yale University Council, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, for which he was instrumental, despite owning a cattle ranch, in reintroducing wolves to the region. He often visited the ranch, in the Centennial Valley of Montana.

He was a vestryman of Trinity Church on Wall Street in Manhattan and of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, and was the treasurer and vice president of the New York City Bar Association for a time. He was also an adjunct professor at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, and a member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct from 1974 to 1983. One Bar Association colleague said his service was “characterized by the sense of decency he brought” to his work.

In New York, Mr. Wainwright was president of the Down Town Association from 1985 to 1992. In East Hampton, where he had lived full time since 2000, he was president of the Maidstone Club from 1970 to 1973. A skilled squash player, fisherman, and duck hunter who kept himself in tiptop physical condition, he was known to walk up 44 stories to his office at Chase Manhattan Plaza to prepare for hiking and climbing vacations.

In addition to his wife of 68 years and his son Walker, who lives in East Hampton, he leaves another son, Mark L. Wainwright of Los Gatos, Calif., four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, Oct. 7, at 11 a.m. at St. Luke’s Church in East Hampton. Memorial donations have been suggested for the Boys Club of New York, online at