Elbert Lee “Whit” Whitley, Jr. of Albemarle died April 25, 2023, at home surrounded by his family. He was 89. Born in Albemarle on December 1, 1933, Whit graduated from Albemarle High School in 1951 and accepted a football scholarship to Duke University, where he was a standout defensive end for the Blue Devils.
Following college, in 1956 Whit married JoAnn Burrell. Inducted into the Army shortly thereafter, Whit and JoAnn moved to Frankfurt, where Whit, trained in cryptography, handled classified communications in West Germany. Honorably discharged from the Army, Whit and JoAnn returned to Albemarle to start a family and begin what would be a lifetime of service to their community.
First elected to the Albemarle City Council in 1964, Whit was elected Mayor in 1968. He served in that role from 1969 to 1977 and again from 2005 to 2013. Whit also served as President of the Albemarle Jaycees and Chairman of the Albemarle Chamber of Commerce. Appointed by Governor Jim Hunt, Whit served on the North Carolina Board of Economic Development for eight years. And, as a 28-year member of the Board of the Stanly County Regional Medical Center, Whit raised funds for the construction of a new hospital.
Whit worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his fellow Stanly County residents by expanding opportunities for education and job training at Stanly Community College (“SCC”), where he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1983 to 2013. Whit’s unfailing sense of mission made possible the expansion of the Albemarle campus and the addition of the Crutchfield Education Center, in Locust, North Carolina. Through the SCC Foundation, Whit and JoAnn provided scholarships to SCC students.
The Carillon Tower Clock on the Crutchfield Campus of SCC is accompanied by a plaque, which reads: “In appreciation for a lifetime of giving - The Crutchfield Family Foundation places this carillon tower clock in honor of Elbert L. Whitley, Jr., November 29, 2005, as tribute to his leadership in promoting educational opportunities for all citizens of Stanly County.” The inscription also includes a quote from Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” In further recognition of that lifetime of giving, in 2010 the Governor of North Carolina awarded Whit the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Whit is survived by his two daughters, Alice (Andy) of Albemarle, and Leigh Ann (Pat) of Atlanta, and his beloved dog, Tigger. He is preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, JoAnn. The family is grateful for the loving caregivers who looked after Whit and made him comfortable during his last days.
The family will receive visitors on Monday, May 1, at Hartsell Funeral Home in Albemarle from 6pm until 8pm. There will be a graveside service on Tuesday, May 2, at Fairview Memorial Park in Albemarle at 11am.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Stanly Community College Foundation, jmartin8295@Stanly.edu., Hospice of Stanly and the Uwharrie, 960 N. First Street, Albemarle, NC 28001, Alzheimer's Foundation of America, 322 8th Ave., 16th Floor, New York, NY 10001, or to the charity of your choice.
Hartsell Funeral Home of Albemarle is serving the Whitley family.