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A. Grant Whitney papers

Identifier: MS0243

Scope and Contents

These papers contain correspondence to and from Whitney, publicity and other information on his activities, newspaper clippings, publications featuring Whitney, and various other sources. The collection provides a particularly thorough documentation of the Festival in the Park and the three local bicentennial celebrations that Whitney spearheaded during the late 1960s and mid-1970s.


  • Creation: 1940 - 1996


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Adelbert Grant Whitney was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on July 25, 1917 to A. H. and Julia Sheehan Whitney. Upon graduation from Boston University in 1940, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. During World War II, he served with the First Infantry Division and received the Soldiers Medal for Heroism for saving the life of a fellow infantryman. During this time, he met William Henry Belk Jr., who recruited Whitney into the Charlotte-based Belk Stores Services. Upon relocating to Charlotte in 1946, Whitney immediately began the intensive participation in civic affairs that would continue throughout his life. He joined several local organizations, served as a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts, staged plays through his church, and put on a yearly ball in connection with Charlotte's Thanksgiving Day parade. The Charlotte Jaycees named Whitney their 1952 Young Man of the Year. In 1954, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County observed the 179th anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence with a visit from President Eisenhower. Whitney organized and planned "Freedom Celebration Day," which attracted tens of thousands of Charlotteans to a picnic lunch with the President at Freedom Park. A decade later, Whitney began his longest-lasting endeavor when the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce asked him to arrange and organize a festival for the arts. This festival, first staged in 1964, became the Festival in the Park. Whitney remained director of the festival until failing health caused him to withdraw in 1992. At that point, his children, Frank and Julie, and their friend, David Dalton, assumed leadership of the annual event. In 1968, representatives of the City of Charlotte, familiar with Whitney's organizational experience, asked him to prepare the bicentennial celebration of the chartering of the city. This event included different activities and themes for each month, and culminated in a visit by and appreciation ceremony for Billy Graham. The success of the 1968 celebration led to Whitney's appointment to organize the local bicentennial celebrations of the American Revolution (1976) and the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence(1975). Events included the "All Nations Festival," comprised of exhibits and food from various national groups in Charlotte, the reenactment of Captain Jack's ride to deliver the Mecklenburg Declaration to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and a visit to Charlotte by President Gerald Ford in 1975. His efforts prompted The Charlotte News to name Whitney the 1975 Man of the Year. Whitney retired from Belk Stores Services in 1987 as Executive Vice President of Belk Stores Insurance Reciprocal and Archdale Mutual Insurance. He also served in leadership positions in many professional societies, such as the National Association of Independent Insurers. Whitney's association with Belk and with John Belk, in particular, kept him in the city's spotlight for much of his life. He married Lillian DeArmon of Charlotte and they had three children: Julia (Austin), A. Grant Jr., and Frank DeArmon. In 1991, Whitney contracted a neurological disorder, which impaired his health and activities. A. Grant Whitney, Sr., died on April 12, 1996 in Charlotte and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.


6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Papers of a Charlotte civic leader, particularly documenting the founding and operation of Festival in the Park (1963-96). Contains material on the visits of presidents Eisenhower (1954) and Ford (1975); respective bicentennials of the City of Charlotte (1968), the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (1975), and the United States (1976); Billy Graham appreciation programs (1968, 1978); Carolina Carrousel Parade; the Shrine Bowl football game; and LeGette Blythe's drama, Voice in the Wilderness. Includes correspondence, details on arrangements and financing of events, photographs, publicity material, scrapbooks, and clippings. Also includes a small amount of material on his wife's family, the DeArmons, and First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.


The A. Grant Whitney Papers are divided into twelve series. Series 1: Festival in the Park (1963-1996); Series 2: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial Committee (1974-1977); Series 3: Charlotte Bicentennial (1968); Series 4: President Eisenhower Visit, 1954 (1954-1956); Series 5: Billy Graham (1960-1978); Series 6: Shrine Bowl and Masons (1946-1985); Series 7: Royal Society of the Knights of the Carrousel (1952-1968); Series 8: Voice in the Wilderness (1955); Series 9: Civic Endeavors (1938-1988); Series 10: Professional Activities (1940-1986); Series 11: Personal Material (1942-1988); Series 12: Photographs (n.d.).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Julie Whitney Austin, Frank Whitney, and the Festival in the Park, Inc., 1997.

Related Materials

John M. Belk Papers (UNCC Manuscript 60). LeGette Blythe Papers (UNCC Manuscript 64). Victor Shaw Papers (UNCC Manuscript 95). William H. Sumner Collection (UNCC Manuscript 138). Philip Lance Van Every Papers (UNCC Manuscript 111). Festival in the Park Collection (UNCC Manuscript 357).

Processing Information

Processed by Jeff Forret and Jason Hardin.

A. Grant Whitney papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

About this Site

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