William Hurd Scheide was born on Jan. 6, 1914, in Philadelphia, and grew up in Titusville. His mother, the former Harriet Hurd, was a social worker in New York when she met his father., John.
An only child, Mr. Scheide learned to play piano early and majored in history at Princeton only because the university did not offer a music major. Now it does, and Mr. Scheide has been generous to the music department as well as other parts of the university.
His wife, the former Judith McCartin, whom he married in 2003, said he died in Princeton in the house where he had lived for more than 60 years. It is on a street called Library Place.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Scheide’s survivors include two daughters, Louise Marshall and Barbara Scheide; a son, John; three stepdaughters, Mary Holmes, Carol Taylor and Catherine McCartin; three grandchildren; six stepgrandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His marriage to the former Lorna Riggs, the mother of his children, ended in divorce in the 1960s. He married his second wife, Gertrude Corbin, in 1971; she died in 2002.
Mr. Scheide provided major financial support to many other groups. He gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic causes and candidates, much of it after marrying his third wife, a longtime Democratic activist. He himself was a lifelong Republican.
He became an essential financial supporter of some of the most important legal fights of the civil rights movement, and of the lawyer often leading them, the future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Mr. Scheide became active in local civil rights groups while living in Princeton in the early 1950s. When he received a mail solicitation from the Legal Defense Fund, he donated $5. But after Mr. Marshall got word of Mr. Scheide’s interest and his wealth, he asked him to help finance the landmark school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.
The Legal Defense Fund said last week that Mr. Scheide had been its most generous individual donor and its longest-serving board member. (He joined in 1962.) His wife, Judith Scheide, also a member of the board, said in an interview on Friday that he had given the organization nearly $6 million in the last two decades.