Jack Warner

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Jonathan Westervelt Warner (born July 28, 1917 in Decatur, Illinois; died February 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa) was the CEO of the Westervelt Company and a respected art collector, whose holdings form the basis of the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art.

Warner was the son of Herbert and Mildred Westervelt Warner. The family moved to Tuscaloosa when Mildred's father, Herbert Westervelt, consolidated the Gulf States Paper Corporation there in 1929. Warner attended the Culver Military Academy in Indiana and earned a degree in business administration at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia in 1940. While in college, Warner competed as a champion swimmer.

Warner married the former Elizabeth Butler Turner in 1940. In 1941 he was commissioned as an officer with the MARS Task Force and served during World War II in Burma. After his discharge he began working as a sales manager at Gulf States Paper, which his mother, Mildred, had taken over at the death of her father in 1939. He was promoted to executive vice president in 1950 and, when Mildred Warner retired from business in 1957 he succeeded her as president.

Warner continued to expand and diversify the business, which he renamed the Westervelt Company, into a range of timber and paper products with operations in five states. He also continued his mother's progressive land management practices, collecting awards from National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Protection Agency. He retired from day-to-day business on January 1, 1995, staying on until 2005 as a consultant and board member.

Warner also served as president of the Greater Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Alabama Chamber of Commerce. He chaired the Board of Visitors at the University of Alabama College of Commerce and served in the University of Alabama President's Cabinet. He was also president of the Warrior-Tombigbee Development Association, and a trustee emeritus at his alma mater. He served on the boards of the American Paper Institute, the Alabama Great Southern Railroad, the American Forest Institute, the Associated Industries of Alabama, the Southern States Industrial Council, the Birmingham Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and the First Alabama Bank of Tuscaloosa. He was likewise a trustee of the Southwestern University at Memphis, Mount Vernon, and the Smithsonian Institute.

In the 1960s and 1970s Warner also operated a breeding stable for horses ridden in equestrian competitions. Two of his horses, "Do-Right" and "Tuscaloosa" medaled in international competitions. In addition to his company's managed timber holdings, Warner developed a hunting preserve, the Westervelt Lodge, and also the Northriver Yacht Club residential and recreational complex.

Beginning with a purchase of John J. Audubon prints in the 1950s, Warner built up one of the greatest private corporate collections of American art, with hundreds of paintings and decorative art objects spanning the 18th through 20th centuries. Many of the works, which Warner purchased on behalf of the company, were displayed to the public and to school groups in galleries inside the Westervelt Company's headquarters office. Other notable works were acquired by Warner personally or for the Jack Warner Foundation. These were generally displayed at his home, "Whispering Cliffs" on Lake Tuscaloosa, but some also were exhibited alongside the larger collection.

In 2003 the corporate art collection was installed in a separate Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art overlooking Lake Tuscaloosa on the Yacht Club property, where Warner's second wife, Susan Austin-Warner was employed as director after they married in 2006. In 2011 the board of the Westervelt Company decided to auction off 29 works to take advantage of a stimulus tax credit offered in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. This action was taken without consulting the Warners or the staff of the museum. Exhibition of the bulk of the remaining artwork was turned over to a private foundation which operates as the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art. Meanwhile, Jack and Susan Warner made a large financial donation to the Metropolitan Museum of American Art in New York and the newly-opened "Jack and Susan Warner Hudson River Gallery" was named in their honor.

Other beneficiaries of Warner's generosity included the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the Culver Military Academy, Washington & Lee University, the 1st Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, the United Way of West Alabama, and the City of Tuscaloosa.

Warner was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame in 1979, and the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1983. He was honored as a "Distinguished Sportsman" by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. He was given lifetime achievement awards by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Greater Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce in 1997.


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