Biographical / Historical
Samuel Henry Whitley was born on September 1, 1878, on a farm near Cleburne, Texas. After attending school in Johnson County, he earned a bachelor of arts degree from Trinity University, which was then located in Tehuacana, Texas, and a master of arts degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He began his career working as a rural school teacher in Johnson, Ellis, and Limestone counties before becoming an administrator for schools in Thornton, Mexia, and Cosicana. He was named the first assistant state superintendent of public instruction in 1917.
On January 1, 1919, he accepted the position of dean of the faculty and registrar of East Texas State Normal College, a position created by ETSNC President Randolph B. Binnion. Five years later, on December 4, 1924, he assumed the presidency of the College when President Binnion accepted a position with Peabody in Tennessee.
During his 22-year tenure as president of East Texas, the college received academic certification by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the American Association of Teachers Colleges. He oversaw the construction of the Science Building, East Dormitory, Mayo Hall, Home Economics Demonstration Cottage, President's House (now the Heritage House), Library (now the Hall of Languages), Whitley Gymnasium, and the completion of the Education Building (now Ferguson Hall). Also during Whitley's tenure graduate and extension courses were introduced to the curriculum and Ph. D.'s added to the faculty. Under his leadership, the College became known as the
"South's Most Democratic College," meaning ET offered an education to those in East Texas not able to afford one otherwise. Noted for his friendliness and fairness, Whitley had the reputation of knowing the names of most of the students and faculty at ET.
Austin College in Sherman, Texas, conferred upon Whitley the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature and Trinity College the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Whitley was president of the American Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, governor of the 48th district of Rotary International, president of the Texas Society for Crippled Children, and a member of the SACSS Commission on Institutions of Higher Learning.
On December 27, 1904, Whitley married Lucy Braden Love (1880-1973) of Austin, a public school teacher and daughter of Colonel R. M. Love. The Whitleys had three children: Robert Love (1905-1933), Mary Lou (1913-1992), and Albert Portlen (1910-1986).
On October 2, 1946, President Whitley died at Caddo Lake on a hunting trip after serving ET for over two decades.