Monday, December 21, 2015

Amidas Augustus Whitener (1874-1956)

Portrait courtesy of

   A standout figure in the history of Hickory, North Carolina, Amidas Augustus "Mike" Whitener was a one-term mayor of that city as well as a two-time candidate for the United States Senate. A lifelong resident of Hickory, Whitener was born in that town on August 10, 1874, one of a total of fifteen children born to Laban Socrates and Amanda Catherine Abernethy Whitener. He would attend the Hickory High School and later studied at the Lenoir-Rhyne College, also located in Hickory.
  A.A. Whitener married in June 1898 to Emma Gullick Kestler (1875-1936) with whom he would have ten children: Laban Stewart (died in infancy in 1899), Miriam Adele (1900-1981), Louis (1902-1956), Thomas Manly (1905-1968), Allene (1907-1991), Emma (1908-), E. Cline (1908-), Howard (born 1911), Julian Gaston (1914-2003) and Jane (1921-1995).
  Active in a number of business concerns in his native state, Whitener was a past president and director of the Carolina Glove Co. and a former vice-president of the Phoenix Mills Co. In addition to those businesses, Whitener is also recorded as having been an attorney, as well as having an interest in "several Western N.C. cotton mills" and manufacturing plants. 
   Amidas A. Whitener entered local politics in 1899 when he was elected as mayor of the city of Hickory, officially entering into office in 1900. In 1914 he became the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina, and during that election year faced off against incumbent Democrat Lee Slater Overman (1854-1930). On election day 1914 it was Overman who coasted to victory, besting Whitener by a vote of 121,342 to 87, 101. 
  Despite this loss, Whitener continued to be an active Republican, and in 1920 was selected as the temporary chairman of the North Carolina Republican State Convention then being held in Greensboro. A decade following his 1914 defeat Whitener was again a candidate for the U.S. Senate, this time facing off against another oddly named man, Furnifold McLendel Simmons (profiled here back in July 2011.) In a unique contest that pitted a man named Amidas against a man named Furnifold, the stranger name won out, as Simmons trounced Whitener by over 110,000 votes. While his loss margin was substantial, 1924 proved to be a busy year for Whitener, as he also served as part of the North Carolina delegation to the Republican National Convention that nominated Calvin Coolidge for the Presidency.
  Following his second defeat for the Senate little could be located on the remainder of Amidas Whitener's life. Widowed in 1936, Whitener died of "advanced complications of cancer" on June 4, 1956 at age 81. He was later interred alongside his wife at the Oakwood Cemetery in Hickory. Politics (as well as odd names) continued in the Whitener family in Shuford LeRoy Whitener (presumably a cousin of Amidas) who served four terms as Mayor of Hickory between 1916-1927.

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