Great-grandson of News’ founder, 95, was philanthropist, industrialist
Grosse Pointe — Warren Scripps Wilkinson, an industrialist, philanthropist and longtime member of the board of directors for The Detroit News, died Sunday, May 17, 2015, at his home in Grosse Pointe. He was 95.
Mr. Wilkinson, who had suffered from several years of progressively worsening dementia, was a great-grandson of James E. Scripps, who founded the newspaper in 1873.
He also was the family’s historian. His collection of materials relating to The Detroit News and its founder was so extensive, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Bentley Library of the University of Michigan digitized parts of it.
Mr. Wilkinson also was involved with the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, where he contributed his time and some of his collection of historic items.
A family foundation started by Mr. Wilkinson contributed to such Detroit institutions as the Belle Isle Conservatory, Detroit Public Television, William Beaumont Hospital and the Detroit Institute of Arts, which James E. Scripps helped found in 1885.
Mr. Wilkinson also created a scholarship at Harvard University for Michigan students going into scientific fields.
Mr. Wilkinson’s family legacy was important to him, and another of the ways he maintained it was by hosting an annual reunion at a Canadian resort in the Muskoka Lakes area for 33 years.
“The resort is where his parents used to own an island,” said his oldest son, Todd Wilkinson of Bloomfield Hills. “His parents eventually sold the island, but you still could see the island from the resort. The family eventually grew so large, we had about a fifth of the resort to ourselves. That was the one event of the year nobody could miss.”
He was founder and president of the Grosse Pointe Chapter of Alliance Francaise, which promoted Metro Detroit’s ties to France and held an annual French Festival. In 1976, during the re-enactment of the founding of Detroit, he played Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, an explorer and trader who founded Detroit in 1701 as a French settlement.
Mr. Wilkinson was born Feb. 2, 1920, in Detroit to Almadeus DeGrasse Wilkinson and Harriet Whitcomb Wilkinson, granddaughter of James E. Scripps.
He attended the Hotchkiss School from 1934-37, Harvard College from 1937-41 and the California Institute of Technology from 1941-42.
Mr. Wilkinson served in the Navy during World War II from 1943-45. Afterward, he joined the Hanson Van Winkle-Munning Co. in Matawan, New Jersey, where he worked from 1946 until 1964, when the business was sold to the American Can Company.
Mr. Wilkinson later founded Reinforced Plastics Industries in Marlette, Michigan.
Mr. Wilkinson is survived by his wife of 49 years, Mireille de Bary; a daughter, Susan Lees; sons Todd, Warren Jr., Guerin, Stephen, Bary and Bruce; six daughters-in-law, 23 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Nina Gay, preceded him in death.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Church, 61 Grosse Pointe Blvd., Grosse Pointe Farms.