Richard Sherwood, Noted Arts Patron, Dies


Richard E. Sherwood, former president of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Center Theatre Group that operates the Ahmanson and Taper theaters at the Los Angeles County Music Center, died Thursday.

Sherwood, one of the first Jewish partners in a major downtown Los Angeles law firm, was 64. He died at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan, where he had been admitted April 2 after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage while in his office at O'Melveny & Myers.

When he was elected in 1974 at the age of 46, Sherwood became the youngest president of the growing art museum. During his four-year Administration he supervised the museum's 10th anniversary observances, upgraded and increased the permanent collection and oversaw construction of the sculpture garden.

"Dick Sherwood was an unusually gifted man," said Franklin D. Murphy, former chairman of Times Mirror Corp.,who preceded Sherwood as president of the museum. "To me, with all of his great qualities, the one that stood out the most was his enormous curiosity about a whole range of issues and his tremendous knowledge relating thereto, including art, world affairs, the Orient. And with all that, he was a very distinguished lawyer."

Sherwood and his wife, Dorothy (Dee), who was president of the Art Museum Council during her husband's tenure as museum president, were avid collectors of Asian art and modern works by Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Richard Diebenkorn, Philip Pearlstein, Robert Rauschenberg and others. The couple regularly toured museums around the nation and the world.

Dorothy Sherwood told The Times at the time of their joint tenure at LACMA that "Dick has a terrifically retentive mind--a file cabinet mind. And it has been the great pleasure of our marriage--this shared interest in museum-going and collecting."

Born in Beverly Hills on July 24, 1928, the son of the Benjamin Berkley Sherwoods, the future lawyer graduated from Beverly Hills High School, Yale University and Harvard School of Law, where he met his wife, a student of art history at Wellesley. He served a year as a second lieutenant in the Air Force, and in 1953-54 held a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship from Harvard, which he utilized on an art education honeymoon tour of India.

In 1954-55 Sherwood served as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. A year later, he became the first Jewish lawyer since the early 1900s to be hired by the prestigious O'Melveny firm. On June 1, 1964, in an era when the city's major law firms, as well as cultural institutions, remained less than welcoming to Jews, Sherwood was made a partner in the firm.

He was a specialist in antitrust law, trade regulation and intellectual property litigation. Sherwood was a trustee of LACMA from its inception in 1965 until his death. He had been a member of the Board of Directors of the Center Theatre Group of the Los Angeles County Music Center from 1980 until his death, and was president from 1982-85, chairman from 1985-87, and chairman of its executive committee from 1987 until his death.

He was a member of the cultural commission that developed the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, a trustee of CalArts, a member of the Overseers Committee to Visit the Harvard Art Museums, a member of the International Council of the New York Museum of Modern Art, and a vice president and member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Opera.

Sherwood had been a leader in promoting Japanese and American cultural affairs, last year earning Japan's Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays With Rosette. He was secretary of the New York-based Asia Society, and in 1980 he founded what became the Asia Society/Southern California Center.

Always active in public affairs, Sherwood served on the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy. He was a member of the White House Task Force on Antitrust Policy, a chairman of the American Jewish Committee's Los Angeles chapter, chairman of the Board of Overseers of the RAND-UCLA Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and a member of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

A liberal Democrat, Sherwood was a major fund-raiser for former U.S. Sen. John V. Tunney.

In addition to his wife of 40 years, Sherwood is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth, of Santa Fe, N.M., and son, Benjamin, of Washington, D.C., the first sister-brother recipients of Rhodes scholarships to Oxford University.

The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Harvard Law School, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or the Center Theatre Group. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

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