Mr. Lithgow, whose son is the film, TV and stage actor John Lithgow, was 88. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.
As an actor, he appeared on stage in the late 1930s, in student shows at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, where he earned a bachelors degree in 1938. He earned a masters degree from Cornell. According to Who's Who of the American Theatre, his stage debut was as a cherub in a Unitarian Church Christmas pageant in Melrose, MA, in 1920.
His Broadway debut was a play called Lorelei in 1938. He would be drawn, however, to work outside Manhattan for many years and directed and appeared in summer stock and regional theatres to rise to administrative positions that included executive director of McCarter Theatre in the 1960s.
In summer 1951 he was associate producer of the Shaw Festival at the Rice Playhouse on Martha's Vineyard, where he performed in Pygmalion, Heartbreak House, Man and Superman and Arms and the Man.
He became executive director of Antioch College Shakespeare Festival in summers 1952-57, acting in and directing Shakespeare. Within a period of six years, this festival produced all of the works of Shakespeare, bringing the attention and praise of Queen Elizabeth II, according to Kent State University, where Mr. Lithgow's paper and archives are kept. In 1956, the festival partnered with the Toledo Zoo and works were presented outdoors at Antioch and at the zoo. The New York Times reported the festival would eventually grow into the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Lakewood, Ohio.
Mr. Lithgow was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. His father was a utilities executive, his mother was a nurse.
He married Sarah Jane Price, an actress he met at Antioch, in 1939. According to The Times, in addition to his wife, survivors include son John and daughter Robin, both of Los Angeles, son David, of New York, and daughter Sarah Jane Bokaer of Ithaca; two sisters, Marion James of Melrose and Jeannette Peverly of Milton, MA.; and 13 grandchildren.