BRENTWOOD/PACIFIC PALISADES—Harold M. Williams, the first founding president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, died on Sunday, July 30 at the age of 89, according to a press release from the Getty.
Williams, who served in the position from 1981 to 1998, was credited with presiding over the development of the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. The museum, which was founded by oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty, expanded into an international, multifaceted institution dedicated to scholarship, conservation, education, and the presentation of the visual arts, the press release indicated.
“The Getty today – its global reach and its Southern California presence – is a legacy of Harold M. Williams,” Maria Hummer-Tuttle, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust, said in a statement.
The trust was established in 1953 by Getty, who was named at one point to be the world’s richest private citizen. Following his death in 1976, most of his estate passed to the trust in 1982. Williams was selected to determine how to best utilize Getty’s resources. Along with Nancy Englander, the Getty’s director of program planning and analysis, who later became his wife, he guided the formation of the Getty as an interdisciplinary center and a resource of art and art history. He also conceived and presided over the construction of Brentwood’s Getty Center and its grand opening in 1997 before his retirement.
The Getty Center is home to the Getty’s four operating programs, overseeing the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The center is one of the most visited arts institutions in the country, according to the press release.
“Harold envisioned and then built the Getty Center as a museum, library, laboratories, and public spaces for greater appreciation, understanding, and conservation of the world’s artistic legacy. We are all deeply in his debt,” J. Paul Getty Trust President James Cuno said in a statement.
By the time Williams retired as president and CEO, the Trust’s $1.2-billion endowment from 1982 had risen to nearly $4 billion. He maintained an office at the Getty Center after his retirement and continued to attend meetings and events. For the rest of his life, he remained an active member of the Getty community. In 2013, he and Nancy were honored with the inaugural J. Paul Getty Medal by the Getty Trustees.
A memorial service in Williams’ honor will be held in the fall.