|William Russell Grace|
Grace, while Mayor of New York City
|Mayor of New York City|
May 10, 1832|
Ballylinan, County Laois,
March 21, 1904 (aged 71)|
New York City, New York,
|Resting place||Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn|
|Relations||Michael P. Grace (brother)|
|Children||11, including Joseph Peter|
|Parents||James Grace & Ellen Russell|
|Occupation||Businessman, politician, philanthropist|
|Known for||Founding co-benefactor of the Grace Institute|
Grace was born in Ireland in Riverstown near the Cove of Cork to James Grace and Eleanor May Russell (née Ellen) while the family was away from home, and raised on Grace property at Ballylinan in Queens (now Laois) County near the town of Athy. He was a member of a prominent and well-to-do family. In 1846, Grace sailed for New York against the wishes of his father, and worked as a printer's devil and a shoemaker's helper before returning to Ireland in 1848.
His nephew, Cecil Grace, attempted a crossing of the English Channel in December 1910 in an airplane, flying from Dover to Calais. However, in coming back he became disoriented and over Dover flew northeast over the Goodwin Sands toward the North Sea and was lost.
William and his father, James Grace, traveled to Callao, Peru, in 1851, seeking to establish an Irish agricultural community. James returned home but William remained, where he began work with the firm of John Bryce and Co., as a ship chandler.
Opposing the famous Tammany Hall, Grace was elected as the first Irish American Catholic mayor of New York City in 1880. He conducted a reform administration attacking police scandals, patronage and organized vice; reduced the tax rate, and broke up the Louisiana Lottery. Defeated in the following election, he was re-elected in 1884 on an Independent ticket but lost again the following time. During his second term, Grace received the Statue of Liberty as a gift from France.
William Russell Grace was a renowned philanthropist and humanitarian, at one point contributing a quarter of the aid delivered to Ireland aboard the steamship Constellation during the Irish Famine of 1879. In 1897, he and his brother, Michael, founded the Grace Institute for the education of women, especially immigrants.
On September 11, 1859, William was married to Lillius Gilchrist (1839-1922), the daughter of George W. Gilchrist, a prominent ship builder of Thomaston, Maine, and Mary Jane (née Smalley) Gilchrest. Together, William and Lillius had eleven children, including:
Grace died on March 21, 1904 at his residence, 31 East 79th Street, in New York City. His funeral was held at the Church of St. Francis Xavier on West 16th Street and he was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn. His estate was valued at $25,000,000.