Biographical Sketch: George T. Whitley (1883-1975) was a Johnston County farm boy and one of nine children born to Adam Jackson and Abigail Casey Whitley. He taught school at Yelverton Grove and Pleasant Hill schools in Johnston County, before entering the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1904. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1908 and a master's degree in 1909, and then studied the next four summer sessions at Columbia University.
In 1910, he began his professional teaching career as principal at Clayton, where he stayed for four years. In the 1914-1915 school year, he taught at Nashville High School. Then he served as principal at Smithfield's Turlington Graded School from 1915 to 1923.
While not an athlete himself, Whitley was one of Smithfield's first basketball coaches. At the time he took the principal's job, the sport had only recently become popular, and the school did not have a coach. So he learned the rules of the game from a guide book and enlisted the help of local men who knew the game well enough to assist him in working with the students. During his tenure there, Smithfield won the Eastern Basketball Championship and came within one point of winning the state championship.
In 1923, Whitley transferred to Kenly, where he was principal for 15 years. In 1938, he and his wife left Johnston County and he took a position at Rutherford College Elementary School, serving one year there. J. Burke Long, who had been principal there, transferred to the Kenly School at that time. After a two-year leave from teaching, Whitley went to Collettsville High School in Caldwell County, where he taught until his retirement in 1956. He was married to Johnston County native Bessie Coates, sister of UNC Institute of Government founder Albert Coates. The couple was honored by the Rutherford College community in 1966 in a special observance called "Whitley Appreciation Day". Their portraits were hung in Abernethy Memorial United Methodist Church in Rutherford College as well.
Mr. Whitley died in Aiken, SC in 1975 and his wife died the following year.
Collection Description: The materials in the collection consist mainly of scrapbooks Whitley kept during his years as an educator in Johnston County. Of particular interest is a copy of the 1913 Soil Survey of Johnston County. A school lesson plan book from 1916-1917 and numerous clippings relating to World War I (including letters from Johnston County soldiers published in local newspapers), agriculture, taxation, and local government in Johnston County would also prove valuable to the local history researcher.