At Rest at Cypress Lawn: William H. Crocker (1861-1937)

The youngest son of Charles Crocker — one of the heralded “Big Four” who built the Transcontinental Railroad — was president of the Crocker National Bank and a prominent member of the Republican Party. After the 1906 earthquake and fire left the Crocker mansions in ruins, he donated the family’s 2.6-acre Nob Hill block to the Episcopal diocese of California, which erected Grace Cathedral on the land.

Crocker and his bank were major forces in financing reconstruction of the devastated city. He was a member of the University of California Board of Regents for nearly 30 years, chaired the Panama-Pacific Exposition Committee, and served as a key member of the committee that built the San Francisco Opera House and Veterans Building.

Crocker estate home on Nob Hill before the Great Earthquake

Crocker estate home on Nob Hill before the Great Earthquake

Ethel Sperry (1863-1934), wife of William Crocker and daughter of Stockton flour mogul Willard Sperry, was the leading patron of French Impressionist art in California at that time. She arranged loan exhibitions that introduced to San Francisco such luminaries as Monet, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas. During World War I, she worked with Herbert Hoover on the Belgium Relief Organization and helped organize the American Army Ambulance Hospital in Paris. She and Charles Crocker were decorated by the French government with the Legion of Honor award.

Helen Crocker Russell (1896-1966), the daughter of William Crocker, was publically acclaimed as the “new” society woman. She sat on committees and boards and served as a hostess during the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939-1940. When San Francisco hosted the founding of the United Nations in 1945, Helen Crocker Russell served as the Hospitality Chairperson and became “the busiest person in the city,” according to newspaper accounts.

Factoids:

  • Crocker was the founder of the Crocker Middle School located in Hillsborough, California.
  • His nephew Henry Potter Crocker (1893-1943) is in the family plot. He was a movie star in the 1920s and, at one time, the personal assistant of Charlie Chaplin.
  • His cousin, Aimee Crocker, was a Bohemian mystic who garnered publicity for her extravagant parties in New York, San Francisco, and Paris for her five husbands and many lovers, for her tattoos, and for living ten years in the Far East, not as a tourist but as if a native. She is not in the family plot.

The Crocker family is located within Section D, Lot 487. Click here to view an interactive map of our Memorial Park.