R. William Doolittle Jr., a retired investment and advertising executive and leader in the arts, died Tuesday in Buffalo General Hospital after a brief illness. He was 77.
The lifelong Buffalonian was secretary of the board of Albright-Knox Art Gallery during the late 1970s and early '80s and was chairman of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center from 1983 to 1990.
Mr. Doolittle was a general partner at Doolittle & Co., the brokerage firm founded in 1919 by his father, R. William Sr. He managed 11 branch offices.
After 20 years with the firm, he moved in 1971 to Weil Levy & King advertising and public relations agency, where he became senior vice president in charge of new business.
He retired in 1982 to devote more time to community affairs.
Known for his warmth and infectious humor, Mr. Doolittle amused his friends by creating and producing amateur songs, skits and movies about people he knew and the world around him. Many of them were staged at the Saturn Club, where he was a dean.
"He was a spectacular guy -- my first board chairman," said Anthony Bannon, former director of the Burchfield and now director of the George Eastman House in Rochester.
"He had a wonderful imagination. It was his idea for us to rent two captain's outfits and greet guests on the gangplank during our gala on the Miss Buffalo, which he renamed the S.S. Burchfield." During the early 1950s, Mr. Doolittle had a radio program, "The Buzz and Bill Show," on WEBR with a law student named Herald Price Fahringer, now a nationally known criminal lawyer.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. Doolittle attended the Taft School in Watertown, Conn., and Ridley College, a prep school in St. Catharines, Ont.
He interrupted his studies during his junior year at the Nichols School to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
After serving two years in Norfolk, Va., he returned and graduated from Nichols in 1947. He attended the University of Buffalo.
Mr. Doolittle was a past president of the Mid-Day Club and board member of the Buffalo Tennis & Squash Club.
He also served on the boards of the SPCA, the Buffalo Association for the Blind, the Buffalo Seminary, Studio Arena, the Irish Classical Theatre and the Showboat Theatre of Port Colborne, Ont.
He was a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
An avid painter, photographer and world traveler, he had art and photos in the More-Rubin Gallery, the Members Gallery of the Albright-Knox and the Sibley Gallery in Nantucket, Mass.
In retirement, he lent his voice and camera talent to television and radio commercials.
Survivors include his wife of 53 years, the former Cynthia Keating; a daughter, Lusyd Kourides of Rye; two sons, R. William III of Sharon, Mass., and Douglas of Chicago; and eight grandchildren.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave. Private entombment will be in Forest Lawn.