At 82 years young, Sam Whitfield has left his mark on the Jonquil City. And he’s not done yet.
“It’s been a good place, a real good place,’’ Whitfield said before a recent Smyrna Rotary Club meeting.
Born and raised on a farm in rural Cherokee County, Whitfield signed up for the Army in 1952, and went to Korea the following year near the conclusion of the Korean War. Assigned to the 73rd tank battalion and 7th infantry, Whitfield spent six months in the combat zone.
He served in the Army until 1955, when he and his wife, Grace Garren, moved to Smyrna and raised their two children. Then in 1963, he was one of the founding organizers of the Smyrna Rotary Club and later served as its third president.
“It was a challenge getting started, but it gave us an opportunity to be associated with the business people of the community,’’ he remarked. “I think it’s been beneficial to the city of Smyrna because we’ve been involved with many projects over the years.’’
According to Smyrna Rotarian Narayan Sengupta, “The list of his accomplishments and the things that he has done for the Smyrna Rotary Club, for Rotary District 6900 and for our community goes on and on. A few other things include giving out scholarships, being a (high-ranking) Mason for more than 55 years and being one of the founders of what is now Sun Trust Bank. He is also incredibly active, still involved with the schools and he does more extracurricular activities than most members of our club. He still plays the role of the club photographer, shows up to all of the board meetings, and is always at our annual Cobb Christmas volunteer event, etc.’’
Whitfield has amazingly had perfect attendance at club meetings for nearly 50 years and has attended almost 2,500 meetings in that stretch. A couple of years ago he was instrumental in making the Smyrna Rotary Club No. 1 in the world (out of 33,000-plus clubs) in per-capita giving.
Forty years ago, unhappy at the treatment that one of Smyrna’s school principals was receiving, Whitfield ran for a place on the Cobb County Board of Education and wound up serving for a dozen years.
“Education has always been important to me,’’ said Whitfield, confiding that was the first in his family to attend college.
A widower with two grandchildren, Whitfield is a modest man at heart. But to other Smyrna Rotarians, he’s known as a “Rock Star of Rotary.” But he shrugs off such a notion, and after a half-century of service in the Jonquil City, Whitfield shows no signs of slowing down.
“I'm proud that we’ve helped the world almost become polio free,’’ he said noting that three countries remain fighting to rid the disease. “I feel like we’ve done some good, but there’s still more to do.”