James Smith Whitten
June 22, 1939 – October 20, 2019
It is with our deepest thoughts and prayers that we at the Carolina Music Museum send condolences to our friend and supporter, Bev Whitten, on the passing of her deeply loved husband, Jim. Bev and Jim have been true Angels to the Arts community in Greenville from the moment they chose this wonderful city as their home. Well before The Carolina Music Museum was even a possibility, they were on board with support, advice and enthusiasm, for which we are truly grateful. Through their generosity, four very special instruments will be dedicated to Jim in the new year. Their support for the arts has helped make Greenville the wonderful city it is. Bev is receiving cards and messages at the home. Please consider a donation to any of the wonderful arts organizations listed in the obituary below.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at First Baptist Church, 847 Cleveland Street, Greenville, 29601, at 2pm, Tuesday, November 12, 2019. The Reverend Jim Dant will officiate.
Please keep Bev in your thoughts and prayers. Cards may be mailed to her at:
40 Collins Ridge Drive
Greenville, SC 29607
James Smith Whitten died peacefully in Greenville, SC, on October 20, 2019. Born June 22, 1939, and reared in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the second son of Ardelle Smith Whitten of Birmingham, Alabama, and Lawrence Samuel Whitten of Anderson, South Carolina. He was baptized at Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, and sang with a lovely baritone voice in his church choir. His older brother, Lawrence Samuel Whitten, Junior, predeceased him in 1961. Jim is survived by his wife, best friend and soul mate of 54 years, Beverley Kennett Whitten, formerly of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
As a child, Jim would draw on every available surface and loved to build things. In his teens he constructed his own Hi-Fi system, and at 16 he was the Small bore Rifle Champion for the state of Alabama. He showed the same attention to detail and precision in everything he did. He loved to build wooden ship models to scale, and crafted handsome George III furniture which is still in his home today.
Jim worked as an office boy at his father’s architectural firm, Lawrence S. Whitten & Son, for several summers, then graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture in 1962 with a BS in Architecture and advance degrees in design and business management. Following graduate school, Jim joined his Dad’s architectural firm in Birmingham, but his career was postponed for service in the US Navy. While Navigator aboard a refrigerated cargo ship servicing the Atlantic fleet, Jim was honored as one of the top 100 Lieutenants in the US Navy and posted to Viet Nam as a senior officer on the WWII LST Chesterfield County. After a year patrolling the Mekong River, he was honorably discharged from the Navy and returned to Birmingham as a partner in his Dad’s architectural firm.
Jim’s designs were classic, clean and elegant, winning many awards as a student and later as a practicing commercial architect. He was proud of the banks, hospitals, churches, college campus buildings and commercial office buildings he designed throughout the country. Clients still compliment his handsome and practical designs.
In 1971, having designed the Daniel Building in Birmingham, Jim was invited to join Daniel Construction Company International to create a “design/build” architectural group for DCCI. Throughout his 35 year career at Daniel, (now Fluor Corporation), Jim engaged in a variety of mega projects and negotiations worldwide for his company. He was not only a gifted architect, he became an excellent businessman and contract negotiator. His work for Fluor/ Daniel took him around the world, consulting on design and negotiating contracts in Great Britain, Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Malaysia, India, Chile, and more. His group was in charge of remodeling six United States embassies in former Soviet Union countries. He always enjoyed the clients and challenges he encountered working for a major international engineering and construction company. Over the years, he was Vice President of the Architectural Group, the Southeastern Regional Group, and VP of Operations for the Commercial Group, the Telecommunications Group, and the Space and Defense Group. He retired in 2005 in Greenville, SC.
Jim had a sharp mind, a keen sense of humor, and his honesty and integrity stood him among the finest of men. He was a modest man of deep faith, a gentle soul who made everyone feel welcome and important when they were with him. He was intensely loyal and always a most charming Southern Gentleman. He adored the antics of small animals, and delighted at the bright smiles of discovery on young faces.
Jim loved music of all types, from symphony to opera to choral, from bluegrass to folk to Lowcountry gospel. He loved art and live theater, and was an avid reader of history. He always enjoyed learning about new things, ideas and places, from books, friends, travel and television. Jim, and his wife Bev, have been dedicated supporters of the fine arts, theater and history in Greenville for many years. Together they shared their love of art, music, theater, travel, literature, community service, and time spent with many friends. Over several decades they worked to help local arts organizations grow to world class stature. Theirs was a life lived together, a life of joy.
Jim served on the Board of Trustees of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, the Board of Directors for the Greenville County Museum of Arts, The Warehouse Theater Board, one of the Greenville Symphony Boards, and the building committee for the Centre Stage Theater. He was also an avid supporter of the Carolina Music Museum, the Upcountry History Museum, the American History Book Club, the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, and The Chautauqua Society. He was a Rotarian and served on an architectural Board at Greenville Technical College. In 1987 he donated his extensive personal architectural library to Greenville Tech along with the furnishings to create Tech’s first architectural library for students of design. He was Chairman of the GSP Airport Environs Appeals Commission for 10 years.
With deep appreciation for the love and support of Dr. Leigh Watson and so many friends during Jim’s illness, it is requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to: the , Whitten Endowment, 200 South Main Street, Greenville, SC 29601; the Peace Center Endowment, 101 W. Broad Street, Greenville, SC 29601; the Centre Stage Endowment Fund, 501 River Street, Greenville, SC 29601; the Carolina Music Museum, 516 Buncombe St., Greenville, SC 29601; The Greenville County Museum of Art, 420 College Street, Greenville, SC 29601; or the ALS Research Council, 1275 K Street, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20005.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at First Baptist Church, 847 Cleveland Street, Greenville, 29601, at 2pm, Tuesday, November, 12, 2019. The Reverend Jim Dant will officiate.