American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Woodward “Woody” Kingman, 1925 – 2016

  • In Memoriam
  • Author: Claire McAuliffe Kingman
  • Climb Year: 2016
  • Publication Year: 2017

Woodward “Woody” Kingman died from stroke complications at age 91 on December 29, 2016, near his home in Belvedere, California.

Woody is well remembered as a gentle and strong, principled man whose generosity of spirit and unfailing optimism earned him close friends around the world. He lived a rich and full life, climbing mountains, managing organizations, serving in the military and in government, and getting married, finally, at age 71, to Claire, the love of his life. That second stage of his life was a priceless treasure, with a busy, happy home, world travels, new joint friendships, and, for 20 years, the pure and simple joy of an overdue and very loving marriage.

Woody was born on September 5, 1925, in Minneapolis to Henry and Josephine Kingman. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood with his brother, Henry, and sister, Helen, on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the source of his lifelong love of water views and the outdoors. In the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him, Woody attended Amherst College, graduated with honors in 1949, and was elected trustee, by write-in ballot, in 1985.

In 1936, Woody’s father introduced him to the Canadian Rockies, inspiring a lifelong passion for climbing that took him to the far corners of the globe. His highest summit (16,050’), at age 62, was Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. Other notable summits included the Grand Teton (age 15), Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and many peaks in Yosemite Naitonal Park. Major attempts included Denali and Everest, where in 1981 he was on the support team, with Sir Edmund Hillary, for an attempted first ascent of a route on the southeast face. Woody may be most famous for an attempt on an unnamed and unclimbed peak in Burma, now Myanmar, where on descent he became lost in a blinding snowstorm and jogged in place overnight to stay alive.

Woody was a member of the American Alpine Club for 51 years, and, like his father before him, a member of the Canadian Alpine Club for over 25 years.

Between 1943 and 1946, Woody served in the U.S. Army in Okinawa and Hario, becoming the commanding officer of the Repatriation Center for Japanese POWs and displaced native Japanese at age 21.

In 1951, Woody graduated from Harvard Business School which lead to a successful banking career with Citibank in New York and later with Crocker Bank in San Francisco, where he served as executive vice president in the Trust Division.

Woody’s political life began in New York in the early 60s with Young Republicans. A fearless and passionate advocate, he raised money, enlisted supporters, and even ran for State Assembly. The district demographic was a mountain too high. Mayor Lindsay rewarded him with an appointment to the New York City Council. The re-election campaign was so close that a recount was contemplated. Ed Koch beat him. But not by much.

Woody's political skills, business experience, and passion for the cause then drew attention at the national level. In 1970, President Nixon appointed him as the first president of GNMA. Between 1970 and 1974, Woody built the portfolio of mortgage-backed securities at this fledgling agency from zero to $350 billion—real money in those days. He later served as associate director of the United States Information Agency, from 1984 to 1990, in the Reagan administration.

Woody’s happiest days were at his beloved Belvedere home overlooking San Francisco Bay, often with dinner guests at his table and his dog at his feet. The perfect host, he would stand, start to introduce his guests, and often choke up with joy. Woody loved people and people loved him. He is survived by his loving wife, Claire McAuliffe Kingman, their many devoted nieces, nephews, spouses, and children, all of whom mourn the sad passing of their dynamic and beloved uncle.

Woody’s grandfather Joseph R. Kingman wrote: “I feel that my life has been one of peculiar good fortune.” Woody would say the same thing.

– Claire McAuliffe Kingman

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