Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hemphill Gay Whiteside (1906-1986)

  From the November 7, 1957 edition of the Anniston, Alabama Star.

   The name would be Hemphill Gay Whiteside. How's that for an intriguing name! In all probability one of the oddest named Alabama political figures you'll get a chance to read about here on the site, Mr. Whiteside was a well-known insurance man and former Mayor of Oxford in the aforementioned state during the 1940s and 50s. Sadly the following write-up on his life will be on the short side, as I could find very few details on his life and political career in Calhoun County, Alabama.
  A lifelong resident of the Cotton State, Hemphill G. Whiteside was born on November 4, 1906 in Birmingham to Hemphill Prothro (1874-1913) and Nannie Gay Smith Whiteside. He inherited his odd first name courtesy of his father, and in the year of his father's death had removed from Birmingham to Oxford, and here received his education at the Calhoun County High School. He went on to graduate from the North Georgia Agricultural College and was a member of that college's Sigma Nu fraternity. 
  For a good majority of his life Hemphill Whiteside was connected with the sale of insurance in Alabama, being a special agent with the Equitable Life Insurance Agency, headquartered in New York. His time with this company took him through the counties of Calhoun, Talladega, Clay, Clayburne and Cherokee and he was honored on two occasions by this agency with a trip to a company conference in Biloxi, Mississippi for fulfilling his quota months ahead of schedule. During this same time period Whiteside engaged in farming, as well as serving as the head of the Alumni Association of the Calhoun County High School for four terms. The February 28, 1936 edition of the Anniston Star notes that during his time as head of this association Whiteside was "one of the prime movers in the movement that gave the school its athletic stadium."
  In February 1936 Whiteside made his first attempt at public office, announcing his candidacy for a seat on the Calhoun County School Board in that year's Democratic primary. Although unsuccessful in his candidacy, Whiteside continued to be active in Calhoun County civic affairs and married in October 1938 to Ms. Burtie McLain (1909-1995) and later had two children. 
  Two years following his marriage Hemphill G. Whiteside was named as part of the Alabama delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1940, serving as an alternate delegate from Alabama's fourth district. In September 1944 Whiteside won election as Mayor of Oxford over the Republican nominee Dr. R.T. McGraw, and during his sixteen year tenure in this office lead the fight for many civic improvements, including the announcement of a "super-modern 100 unit tourist hotel" to be erected near the interstate in early 1961. Four years after his election as mayor Whiteside was chosen to head the Calhoun County March of Dimes drive to raise money for the awareness of infantile paralysis, and a write up on his work with this campaign was featured in the December 12, 1948 edition of the Anniston Star, shown below.


   Early in his lengthy tenure as mayor Whiteside was appointed to the Executive Committee of the League of Municipalities and in 1956 won reelection to another term, defeating Republican nominee C.B. Hosey by a vote of 556 to 194. Whiteside left the mayor's office in 1960 and was succeeded by another oddly named man, Alvis A. Hamric (1905-1970). In June 1964 Whiteside reentered the political arena and qualified for another term as mayor but was unsuccessful, as Mayor Alvis Hamric was reelected to another term.
  Hemphill G. Whiteside continued to be active in Oxford city affairs until his death on February 12, 1986 at age 79. His wife Burtie survived him by several years and following her death in 1995 was interred alongside her husband at the Oxford Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Oxford, Alabama.

Mayor Whiteside in his office at the new Oxford, Alabama city hall, from the Anniston Star, June 1952.

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