Whitley left mark on Albemarle, Stanly Community College

Whit Whitley, one of the longest serving mayors in the history of Albemarle, died Tuesday at age 89.

Whitley served on the Albemarle City Council from 1965 to 1969. He served 16 years as mayor from 1969 to 1977 and 2005 to 2013.

“He loved this city. He loved the history. During the time he served the city, I think he had the best interest of the present time and future in my mind,” said Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall, who served many years with Whitley as mayor.

“As I look back we have lost a whole generation of leaders within our city and county in the last five years,” Hall continued. “It is saddening to me because it puts who I thought were the leaders when I was growing up — they’re no longer with us.

“It’s been an awakening for me, when I was young there was this group of leaders, not politicians, but visionary leaders in our community who are no longer with us.

“I held that group of folks in such high esteem when I was growing up.”

Former city manager Ray Allen worked with Whitley during his second tenure as mayor.

“He was a person of extraordinary integrity and selfless service to this community,” Allen said. “He was a person who treated everyone the same regardless of their occupation or economic status, and he had friends from every walk of life. He was particularly interested is seeing that city services and programs served everyone within the community. Mayor Whitley came on board during the planning phase for the preservation of the city’s historic 1938 City Hall and the long needed expansion of this facility. He helped guide the completion of this project which will serve this community for decades to come.”

As much as he was known for his service to the city of Albemarle, some say Whitley may have had a greater presence in the community as a board of trustee at Stanly Community College.

“During my 15-year tenure as SCC president, I was very fortunate to have had Whit serve as Board of Trustees’ chair the entire time,” said Dr. Michael Taylor. “We must have met at least once a week, either at his tire shop or my office, for those 15 years. During that time, I saw a man who worked tirelessly for the college, giving his time, talent and resources to support SCC in every way imaginable.

“I specifically remember his walking into my office one day and asking about the possibilities of SCC developing a satellite campus in Locust,” Taylor added. “The idea for that campus came from Whit and is a great testament today of both his vision and desire to grow the college and help the entire county and region.

“During all that time together, he became more than just my board chair. He became a friend.”

Whitley was the longest serving chairman, overseeing the board of trustees from 1983 to 2013.

The Whitley Technology Center, named in his honor, was constructed in 1999. Expanded in 2003, the center includes classrooms for students in advertising and graphic design, IT academy, computer engineering technology, IT business support, network management, cybersecurity and simulation and game development.

He was also a founding member of the SCC Foundation in 1978 and served on the board until 2012, when he was given Emeritus status.

“Whit was synonymous with Stanly Community College,” SCC President Dr. John Enamait said. “We will be forever grateful to him for his many years of service to the college and his commitment to providing education and job training to the residents of Stanly County. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will remain with us for years to come.”

In his younger years, Whitley was known for his prowess on the football field for Albemarle High, as well as being a member of the basketball and tumbling teams before graduating in 1951.

Whitley was a member of the 2018 Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame and inducted in 2019.

He played for legendary Bulldogs head coach H.T. “Toby” Webb, whom he considered a second father.

During the induction ceremony, Whitley recalled a story of how he came to play college ball.

Whitley and teammate Ed Patterson were co-captains of Albemarle and received offers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and South Carolina. Whitley also received an offer from Duke University.

Both had wanted to go to Chapel Hill first, but before they accepted, Webb said he had promised to bring both for a visit to Duke.

“(Duke head coach) Bill Murray and said, ‘Son, I really need you.’ And I said, Yes, sir, Coach. I’m coming to Duke,” Whitley shared at the ceremony.

Patterson also agreed and the two were to be roommates, but Whitley woke the next morning to find that Patterson’s brother, Bob, came in the night and brought his brother back to Chapel Hill.

“And we wound up playing against each other,” Whitley said.

Whitley also talked about playing against Wake Forest lineman Bill Bartholomew, saying he and a teammate were encouraged to take him out.

“Boy we were just hammering his head. We were just pounding him and we were so proud, we didn’t know what to do,” Whitley said. “I don’t know what happened but all of a sudden I couldn’t see. I was lying in the grass and they stopped play.”

He went on to describe how part of his eyebrow was hanging down over his eye saying “it’s not supposed to do that.”

Whitley said he went back in the game but had to use a helmet with a face mask, but if one played with a face mask it was only because “that just meant you couldn’t take it.”

He went back out and hammered on him again but eventually ended up with about “40 or 50 cleat marks on my back,” adding whenever Bartholomew got the chance Whitley “became part of the turf.”

In addition to public service, he served terms as president of the Albemarle Jaycees and the Chamber of Commerce. He served eight years on the North Carolina Board of Economic Development and was a member of the North Carolina Board of Economic Development and board of directors of the Stanly Memorial Hospital.

Flags at city facilities have been lowered in remembrance. Information regarding a funeral has not been released.