Karl Howell Behr was born the son of Herman and Grace (née Howell) Behr of New York City. He was the brother of Max H. Behr, the well-known golfer. Behr was educated at Lawrenceville School and attended Yale University and was admitted to the bar association in 1910.
Behr married Helen Monypeny Newsom on March 1, 1913 at the Church of the Transfiguration in New York City. The couple had four children together: Karl H. Behr Jr. (1914?2002), Peter Howell Behr (1915?1997), James Howell Behr (1920?1976), and Sally Howell Behr (later Mrs. Samuel Leonard Pettit) (1928?1995). After her husband\'s death, Helen remarried one of his best friends and former tennis partners, Dean Mathey.
Behr gave up a career in law, instead turning to banking. He was vice-president of Dillon, Read & Co. and sat on the board of the Fisk Rubber Company, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and the National Cash Register Company. At the time of his death, he was a director of the Interchemical Corporation, the Behr-Manning Corporation of Troy, New York, and the Witherbee Sherman Corporation. His clubs included the Downtown, University and Yale, and the St. Nicholas Society.
Behr was also a well known lawn tennis star, playing on the United States Davis Cup team in 1907. Behr, with Beals C. Wright, was also runner up in the men\'s doubles at the 1907 Wimbledon Championships, losing to Norman Brookes and Tony Wilding in three sets, 4?6, 4?6, 2?6.
He reached the No. 3 U.S. ranking in both 1907 and 1914.
Behr continued his tennis career after the sinking of the Titanic (see below), and was named to the 1914 U.S. Davis Cup team along with fellow survivor R. Norris Williams. However, Behr, who played on the 1907 U.S. Davis Cup, did not play in the 1914 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australasia at Forest Hills. In 1915, Behr defeated Maurice McLoughlin, considered the world\'s best tennis player, in straight sets, 8?6, 7?5, 7?5 to win the tournament in Seabright, New Jersey.
In 1912, Behr booked first class passage on board the RMS Titanic. His main reason for traveling was due to his pursuit of fellow first class passenger Helen Newsom, who was a friend of Behr\'s sister. Behr occupied cabin C-148 during the voyage.
Sometime after the ship hit the iceberg, Behr met up with Helen, her mother and stepfather, Richard and Sallie Beckwith; and another couple, Edwin and Gertrude Kimball, on the boat deck. Under the watch of Third Officer Herbert Pitman, the group gathered around lifeboat 5. Gertrude Kimball asked J. Bruce Ismay if all of their group could enter the boat. Ismay replied, \"Of course, madam, every one of you.\" As a result, Behr and his friends were rescued in lifeboat 5, the second boat to leave the ship. After the rescue, several newspapers reported that Behr had proposed to Miss Newsom in the lifeboat.
While aboard the rescue ship, RMS Carpathia, Behr and several other passengers, including Molly Brown, organized and formed a committee to honor the bravery of the Carpathia\'s captain, Arthur Rostron, and the ship\'s crew. They later presented an inscribed silver cup to Rostron, and medals to each of the ship\'s 320 crew.
Karl Behr died of cancer at his home on 15 October 1949, aged 64. He was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown, New Jersey. He was posthumously honored by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969.
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