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A. Grant Whitney Papers

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Whitney (A. Grant) Papers

A. Grant Whitney papers

Summary Information

J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, UNC Charlotte
Whitney, A. Grant (Adelbert Grant), 1917-1997
A. Grant Whitney papers
Date [inclusive]
6.0 Linear feet 10,800 items
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.

Preferred Citation note

A. Grant Whitney Papers. J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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Biographical/Historical note

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 Dwight D. 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 (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.

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Scope and Contents note

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.

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Arrangement note

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.).

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections, UNC Charlotte

9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC, 28223

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

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

Processing Information note

Processed by Jeff Forret and Jason Hardin.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

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).

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Festival in the Park (Charlotte, N.C.)

Geographic Name(s)

  • Charlotte (N.C.)
  • Mecklenburg County (N.C.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Whitney, A. Grant (Adelbert Grant), 1917-1997


  • American Revolution Bicentennial, 1976--North Carolina--Charlotte
  • Historic buildings--North Carolina--Charlotte
  • Historic sites--North Carolina--Charlotte

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1 Festival in the Park 1963-1996 

Scope and Contents note

This series provides information about both the makeup of the festival, which included arts, crafts, and various performances. Illustrated are the inner workings of the festival (a corporation) and the fund-raising activity required to keep the festival going on a yearly basis. The series is presented largely in chronological form. It also includes other folders with more specific information about the festival, such as the renovation of Freedom Park and tax returns and other financial information.

Box Folder

Chronological Files 1963-1988 

1 1-16

Chronological Files 1989-1990 

5 9-10

Chronological Files 1991-96, undated 

2 1-3

Electrical Workers 1964-1981 

Scope and Contents note

Relates to the electrical workers who volunteered their labor to the festival.

2 4

Exhibitor Lists 

2 5

Financial Information 1964-1988 

2 6

Festival in the Park 1989-1992 

7 3-4

Freedom Park Band Shell Construction 

2 7

Freedom Park Renovation 1987-91, undated 

2 7

Freedom Park Renovation Plan 1988-1989 

2 9-10

Grant Whitney Tribute 1987 

2 11

Parking Permits 

Scope and Contents note

Lists of individuals granted special parking privileges.

2 12

State Grants 

2 13

Volunteer Lists 

2 14

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 Series 2 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial Committee 1974-1977 

Scope and Contents note

This series contains information about Whitney's tenure as head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial Committee. Whitney organized two essentially distinct but overlapping celebrations, that of the Mecklenburg Declaration Bicentennial in 1975 and the United States Bicentennial in 1976. The former observation culminated in an appearance by President Gerald Ford on May 20, 1975, the anniversary of the signing of Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The second phase of the bicentennial period featured different monthly themes and a nationally televised celebration on July 4, 1976 that failed to live up to expectations due to inclement weather.

 Series 2.1 U.S. Bicentennial, 1976 1974-1977 

Box Folder

Activities by Month 1976 

2 15

American Freedom Train 

2 16

Application for Bicentennial Community Status 

2 17

Armed Forces Caravan 

2 18

Armed Forces Week, Military Ball, and Other Military Affairs 

2 19

Battle Reenactments 

2 20

Beard Growing Contest 

2 21

Bell Ringing Ceremony 

2 22

Central Piedmont Community College 

Scope and Contents note

Activities of students and faculty, such as sponsoring lectures and film series.

2 23

Charlotte Information and Activities 

Scope and Contents note

Information pertaining to the city of Charlotte and attention it received for the bicentennial.

2 24

Charlotte Observer Special Edition (JULY 4, 1976)  

2 25

Committee Affairs 

2 26

Committee Correspondence 

2 27

Complete Event Listing 

2 28-3:1

Contacts and Volunteers 

3 2

Costume Ball 

3 3

Ethnic Celebrations 

3 4

Financial Correspondence with City 

3 5

Financial Report 

3 6

Freedom Park Band Shell Construction 

3 7

General Correspondence 

3 8

Grant Applications 

3 9

Johnson C. Smith University and UNC Charlotte Activities 

Scope and Contents note

Information about various events put on by students and faculties of the institutions, including historical research and plays.

3 10

Bicentennial Day Events JULY 4, 1976 

3 11

Legette Blythe, Thunder in Carolina 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence with Blythe, the author of numerous histories of the area as well as dramas based on the revolutionary period. Also information and publicity for the play Thunder In Carolina, a revision of his earlier work, The Hornets' Nest.

3 12

McDonald's Bicentennial Criterium (Bicycle Race) 

3 13

Media Relations 

3 14

Mint Museum 

Scope and Contents note

Various exhibits, programs, and activities sponsored by the museum in conjunction with the bicentennial committee.

3 15

Music, Symphony, and Theater 

3 16

North Carolina Bicentennial Committee-Correspondence 

3 17

Other Mecklenburg Municipality Celebrations 

3 18

Prayer Breakfast 

3 19

Public School Activities and Celebrations 

3 20

Religious Events 

3 21

Sales Tax Reports 

3 22

Scouting Events 

3 23


Scope and Contents note

Sheet music and lyrics for a number of songs written about Charlotte for the bicentennial, many by local amateur songwriters.

3 24

Sounds of America 

Scope and Contents note

Information about and correspondence with the Sounds of America, an a cappella singing group of young people based in Charlotte. The group took part in a number of bicentennial activities, and the group's founder, Tom Hasty, helped Whitney in organization.

3 25

Sporting Events 

3 26

Time Capsule 

Scope and Contents note

Information about and a list of the contents of a time capsule placed in the downtown area.

3 27

U.S. Conference of Mayors, "Lasting Reminders" Program 

Scope and Contents note

Information documenting some of the more permanent benefits gained by the bicentennial celebration.

3 28

Various Events 

3 29

 Series 2.2 Permanent Projects 

Scope and Contents note

This subseries documents the local efforts in the national "Horizons" program, part of the federal government's plan for the bicentennial. The program was designed to encourage communities to commit to tangible projects with lasting value, such as new construction or historical preservation. In Charlotte, this took the form of Bicentennial Committee assistance in a number of restoration projects, most notably the successful effort to gentrify the uptown Fourth Ward neighborhood.

Box Folder

Berryhill House/Fourth Ward 

3 30

Charlotte Cultural Action Plan 

3 31

Fire Station Restoration 

3 32

Hezekiah Alexander House 

3 33

Horizons Committee/Fourth Ward Preservation 

3 34

Latta Place 

3 35

McIntyre House 

3 36

 Series 2.3 All Nations Festival 1971-1980 

Scope and Contents note

This subseries covers Charlotte's "All Nations Festival," an event designed to display the culture and foods of various ethnic groups in the region. With origins in an earlier event called United Nations Day, this festival ultimately fell under the umbrella of the American Bicentennial in 1976. Whitney continued to participate in the festival until 1980.

Box Folder

Correspondence and Press Coverage 1971-1980 

4 1

Participating Groups and Programs 1976-1978 

4 2

 Series 2.4 Mecklenburg Declaration Bicentennial 1974-1975 

Box Folder

Arts and Music 

4 3

Books and Film 

4 4

Captain Jack's Ride 

Scope and Contents note

Information about the recreation of Captain Jack's ride to Philadelphia in 1775 to deliver the Mecklenburg Declaration to the Continental Congress. The committee planned a similar ride along the same route, an idea that proved a success with the exception of the impoundment of the rider's horse by a Virginia official for alleged mistreatment.

4 5

Commemorative Coins 

4 6

Commemorative Stamps and Miscellany 

4 7


4 8

First in Freedom 

Scope and Contents note

Information about LeGette Blythe's play, a highlight of the 1975 celebration, held on May 20, the eve of President Ford's visit.

4 9

General Correspondence 

4 10

Mecklenburg Declaration Information 

4 11

Mecklenburg History 

4 12-13

Military Reenactments 

4 14
Box Photographs-Prints


4 15
Box Folder

President Ford Visit and May 20th Activities 

Scope and Contents note

Information about Ford's visit, the centerpiece of a picnic and daylong celebration at Freedom Park that attracted Billy Graham, Senator Jesse Helms, Governor James Holshouser, and others.

4 16

President Ford Visit--Invitations, Responses 

4 17

President Ford Visit--Newspaper Account 

4 18

Public Relations 

4 19

Religious Celebrations and Other Celebrations 

4 20

Resolutions in State Legislature 

4 21

Richard Dobbs Visit and Northern Ireland 

Scope and Contents note

Information about Richard Dobbs, a descendant of Arthur Dobbs, a royal governor of North Carolina considered acceptable to some in comparison to other colonial governors. The Bicentennial Committee invited Dobbs to the May 20 celebration and also carried on correspondence with officials in Carrickfergus, former home of many of the Scots-Irish settlers who moved to Mecklenburg county in the colonial period.

4 22

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 Series 3 Charlotte Bicentennial 1968 

Scope and Contents note

This series documents Whitney's tenure as part of Charlotte's Bicentennial Committee formed to celebrate the city's 200th anniversary. Serving primarily with future mayor John Belk, the bicentennial commemoration, which stretched out over the year, received criticism for what some perceived as poor planning.

Box Folder

Charitable Donations 

Scope and Contents note

Documents the donations made by the committee to various causes in the Charlotte area.

4 23

Charlotte Tour 

Scope and Contents note

Historical tour given to interested citizens and included several spots of interest in Mecklenburg County.

4 24

Choral Activities 

4 25


4 26

Commemorative Stamps 

4 27

Courthouse Replica 

4 28

Cultural Activities, Museum Activities, and Arts 

4 29

Diorama/Bicentennial Logo/Calendar 

4 30

Financial Records 

4 31

Flags and Street Signs 

4 32

Garden Club Flower Show 

4 33

General Correspondence 

4 34

Hezekiah Alexander House Restoration 

4 35

The Hornets' Nest Drama 

4 36

Jazz Festival 

4 37

May 20, Lady Bird Johnson Visit, and James K. Polk Birthplace 

5 1

Mecklenburg Declaration Signers 

Scope and Contents note

Biographical information on each of the signers of the document.

5 2

Military Celebration 

5 3


5 4

Publicity Material 

5 5

Religious Activity 

5 6


Scope and Contents note

This contains lyrics, sheet music, and correspondence about a number of songs written about Charlotte for the bicentennial. They range from professional compositions to amateur attempts.

5 7

Traffic Safety Program 

5 8

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 Series 4 President Eisenhower Visit 1954-1956 

Scope and Contents note

This series contains material on President Eisenhower's visit to Freedom Park in Charlotte in 1954. Whitney organized the affair, which also included a speech by minister Norman Vincent Peale.

Box Folder

Committees, Contributions, and Invitees 

5 11

Correspondence 1954-1956 

5 12

Programs and Speeches 

5 13

Publicity Material 

5 14

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 Series 5 Billy Graham 

Scope and Contents note

This series contains material on Whitney's association with Charlotte evangelist Billy Graham. The two had a long-running professional and personal acquaintance, and Graham often participated in events organized by Whitney.

Box Folder

Correspondence, Newspaper Reports 1960-1976 

5 15

"Billy Graham Appreciation Day" Prayer Breakfast 1968 

5 16

Birthday Party--Correspondence 1978 

5 17

Birthday Party--Programs and Speakers 1978 

5 18

Birthday Party--Thanks You Notes 1978 


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 Series 6 Shrine Bowl and Masons 

Scope and Contents note

This series contains information on Whitney's tenure in the Masons. Whitney also served in the planning and execution of the Shriners' annual football game for charity at Charlotte's Memorial Stadium. He served as vice-chair (1963-66) and as chair (1967-68).

Box Folder

Committees, Finances, and Publications 1967-1988 

5 20

Correspondence 1946-1985 

5 21

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 Series 7 Royal Society of the Knights of the Carousel 

Scope and Contents note

This series contains material on the annual ball held in conjunction with Charlotte's Carousel Parade at Thanksgiving. Whitney founded and headed the ball each year until it ended during the late 1960s. The ball had a medieval English theme and notable guests, such as Strom Thurmond and Luther Hodges, donned period costumes and waited to be crowned "king" or be named a "duke."

Box Folder

Correspondence 1952-1967 

5 22

Newspaper Accounts 1952-1968 

5 23

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 Series 8 Voice in the Wilderness 

Scope and Contents note

This series contains material on the 1955 production of Voice in the Wilderness, local author LeGette Blythe's look at early Presbyterians in the area. Whitney oversaw the production of the outdoor drama.

Box Folder

Committees, Programs, and Script 

5 24


5 25

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 Series 9 Civic Endeavors 

Scope and Contents note

This series documents Whitney's numerous civic projects. Whitney's connection with John Belk often led him into civic endeavors, and he tackled many other projects on his own.

Box Folder

Arts Involvement circa 1940-1960 

Scope and Contents note

Comprised of newspaper clippings.

6 26

Boy Scouts 1946-1969 

Scope and Contents note

Includes correspondence.

5 27

Correspondence 1938-1988 

5 28-29

Gideons and Various Religious Activities 1979-1985 

5 30

Myers Park Presbyterian Church 1946-64, undated 

Scope and Contents note

Includes newspaper clippings

6 1

Newspaper Clippings 1940-75, undated 

6 2

Ovens Auditorium-Charlotte Coliseum and Civic Center Dedications 1955, 1973 

6 3

Peace Day Ceremony 1973 

6 4

Political Activity 1952-1986 

6 5

U.S. Constitution Bicentennial 1987 

Scope and Contents note

Includes correspondence and publications

6 6

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 Series 10 Professional Activities 

Scope and Contents note

This series documents Whitney's career with Belk Stores Services as head of the firm's self-insurance department, as well as his life-long association with the U.S. Army Reserve (he retired with the rank of Colonel). This series, as well as the previous one, gives a particularly interesting look at the intersection between Whitney's professional and civic activities. In addition, these files provide a fairly complete picture at the events that take place backstage in a community, apart from the public world of politics and higher-profile activity.

Box Folder

Army Service 1940-1986 

Scope and Contents note

Includes correspondence and newspaper clippings.

6 7

Belk Stores Services--Correspondence and Publications 

6 8

Belk Stores Services--Newspaper Clippings and Publications undated 

6 9

Insurance Industry--Correspondence 1953-1977 

6 10

Insurance Industry--Speeches and Publications 

6 11

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 Series 11 Personal Material 1942-1985 

Scope and Contents note

This series documents Whitney's personal life, including his family. The Whitneys were a highly public family, and as such were the subject of numerous newspaper articles. Whitney seemed to gravitate toward the publicity, as did his wife Lillian, who participated in numerous amateur fashion shoots. The series also contains a number of letters, some to Whitney from his children and some from his wife. The series also contains a limited number of papers concerning Frank W. DeArmon, Whitney's father-in-law and a prominent Charlotte banker. DeArmon, an active lay member of First Presbyterian Church, left a number of records dealing with the uptown Charlotte church.

Box Folder

Correspondence 1942-1984 

6 12

Family Material--Correspondence, Newspaper Clippings, and Speeches 

6 13

F. W. Dearmon--First Presbyterian Church Correspondence and Financial Material 1943-1988 

6 14

F. W. Dearmon--First Presbyterian Church Programs and Publications 1943-1985 

7 1

F. W. Dearmon--Masonic Activity 1947-1980 

7 2

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 Series 12 Photographs undated 

Scope and Contents note

This series is comprised of both black & white and color prints of the Festival in the Park, Whitney, and family members.

Society of the Knights of the Carousel circa 1962 

Scope and Contents note

This series is comprised of both black & white and color prints of the Festival in the Park, Whitney, and family members.

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