Edith Williams, Roosevelt granddaughter, dies

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Edith Derby Williams, 90, a granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt who grew up in Oyster Bay and served as a trustee of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, died Sunday at her home on Vashon Island in Washington state.

The death of Williams, an advocate for Republican and environmental causes, leaves just one living grandchild of the 26th president, Nancy Jackson, of Manhattan, said Tweed Roosevelt, of Boston, a great-grandson of Roosevelt.

Williams - who was born, married and died in June - was one of four children of Ethel Carow Roosevelt, the younger of Theodore Roosevelt's daughters, and her husband, Dr. Richard Derby, a surgeon who helped establish Community Hospital in Glen Cove. She was named for her grandmother, Edith Kermit Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt's second wife.

Born in Manhattan on June 17, 1917, Williams spent her childhood in a spacious Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion built in 1878 on Lexington Avenue in Oyster Bay. Now known as the Adams-Derby House, it was designated a town landmark in 1979 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She was not yet 2 years old when her celebrated grandfather died at Sagamore Hill, but she spent much time there afterward until her grandmother's death in 1948.

Williams attended high schools in Manhattan and Switzerland and worked in the 1930s at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. On June 14, 1941, she married Andrew Murray Williams Jr., who would become a prominent attorney, in Christ Church in Oyster Bay, the church Roosevelt had attended. The couple moved to Seattle five years later after Andrew Williams completed service in the Navy.

She became a state Republican committeewoman and was involved with church and other civic organizations. In 1960, Williams received national attention as a delegate at the Republican National Convention, where she presented a rousing seconding speech for the nomination of Richard Nixon. In 1967, she became a member of the Republican National Finance Committee and a year later was co-chair of the Washington State Rockefeller for President Committee. Williams was appointed a Washington State University regent in 1975. In 2000, she was an honorary co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign.

The Williamses had three children, Andrew Jr., who died in 2004; Richard, of Napa, Calif.; and Sarah Chapman of Seattle. Her husband died in 1998. Her survivors include five grandchildren.

Tweed Roosevelt, a Theodore Roosevelt Association board member, said: "Cousin Edith was a stalwart family member, driving much of our efforts to further the memory and ideals of Theodore Roosevelt. She was the last family member with a direct link to TR."

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