Robert Helyer Thayer was born in Southboro, MA, the son of William Greenough Thayer and Violet Otis Thayer. Robert attended Amherst College and Harvard University, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1926. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1926 and began his career with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York City. On 30 December 1926 Thayer married the former Virginia Pratt, with whom he subsequently had three children: Robert Helyer, Stephen Badger, and Sally Sears. In 1932 Thayer worked closely with Col. Henry Breckenridge on the investigation of the Lindburgh kidnapping. In 1938 he became an Assistant District Attorney in New York City under Thomas E. Dewey, where he remained until 1941 when he entered the Naval Service, working in intelligence activities throughout the war. His military declaration included the Bronze Star and the Navy Commendation Medal' he was also a member of the French Legion of Honor. Thayer had a distinguished career in the diplomatic service beginning in 1950 when he became Assistant United States Ambassador to France; from 1955-1958 he served as Minister to Rumania; from 1955-1962 he was Assistant Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs. Thayer left the government in 1962. He was appointed trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1966, and was vice chairman of the board from 1975-1977. Thayer died in Washington, DC, on 26 January 1984. Thayer was a cousin to William Alleyne Otis, a descendant of Harrison Gray [1711-1794]. A portrait of Harrison Gray by John Singleton Copley was purchased from Otis by Thayer's wife Virginia Pratt; the Thayers donated the painting to the National Gallery of Art in 1976.
Otis, William A. A Genealogical and Historical Memoir of the Otis Family in America. Chicago, 1924: 496
Who's Who in America. 38th ed. Chicago, 1974: 3056.
The New York times Biographical Service 15 (1984): 143
The Washington Post, 29 January 1984: B4 [obituary]