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10 Linear Feet
Randolph "Randy" Whitfield was born in Tallahassee, Florida, on February 9, 1909, to Justice James Bryan Whitfield (1860-1948) and Margaret Hayward Randolph Whitfield (1873-1966). His father was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida from 1904 to 1943. Both sides of Whitfield's family were well known families throughout the south. Famous ancestors include his maternal great-great Grandfather, Alonzo Church, the sixth president of the University of Georgia. According to the Georgia Tech History Digital Portal, Whitfield was able to keep this fact a "dark family secret" during his time at Tech.
Whitfield enrolled the Georgia School (now Institute) of Technology in 1927. An incredibly active student, he wasinvolved in many clubs and organizations during his time at Georgia Tech. While studying for a co-operative degree in Mechanical Engineering, Whitfield was president of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, Tech Cotillion Club, Pi Delta Epsilon honorary journalism fraternity, Co-op Club, and his senior class. He also became a member of the Delta Tau Delta social fraternity, Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, ANAK Society, Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Free Body Club, and the business manager of the Technique, Georgia Tech's student newspaper, as well as a Second Lieutenant in the school's Reserve Officer's Training Corps (ROTC). After graduating from Tech with his bachelor's degree, he began further study, earning a Master of Science degree in 1934. During his time in graduate school, he was also an assistant instructor at Georgia Tech.
After earning his degrees, Whitfield took a job at Georgia Power, which at that point owned Atlanta's public transit bus system. He soon became the chief developer of new buses that used air conditioning to keep passengers comfortable in the sweltering Atlanta heat. Because of Randolph Whitfield, Atlanta became the first city in the world to have an air-conditioned bus system.
On March 14, 1940, Whtifield was waiting in his car at a traffic light in Atlanta, when two young men came up to him, threatened him with a gun, hijacked his car, and drove to Cumming, Georgia. During the four-hour ordeal, the two men, Clyde W. Milsap and Ralph W. Day of Adamsville, Georgia, robbed Whitfield of his watch and wallet. The night ended when the car became stuck in a puddle of mud on a country road in Cumming and Whitfield escaped when the kidnappers went to look for help and warned him to stay in the car. He escaped, and made it to the town of Cumming, where he called the police. The two men were arrested and Whitfield was sent home with no injuries. The subsequent investigation and trial were covered in the Atlanta news for months.
Outside of his work at Georgia Power, Whitfield was an avid member of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, and became the President of the Greater Atlanta Georgia Tech Club, Trustee of the Georgia Tech National Alumni Association, and State Chairman of the Joint Tech-Georgia Development Fund. In 2006, Mr. Whitfield's family gave him a gift-- they endowed a full President's Scholarship at Georgia Tech in his name. Thanks to this, one promising Georgia Tech student is awarded the Randolph Whitfield President's Scholarship each year.
According to Mr. Whitfield's ANAK obituary, "he was a charter member, trustee and Vice President of the Georgia Conservancy, Chairman of the Environment Legislation Committee of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, member of the Metropolitan Atlanta Water Resources Study Group, and the Isaac Walton League. He served as a member of Gov. Jimmy Carter's State Reorganization Study Group and as Chairman of the Southern States Energy Board Engineering Task Force on Nuclear Energy Planning."
Whitfield was also a member of the Peachtree Kiwanis Club, Atlanta Athletic Club, and St. Philip's Episcopal Cathedral. He was an avid sailor and helped found the Atlanta Yacht Club as well.
Professionally, Randolph Whitfield was listed in "Who's Who in Engineering," was Chairman of the Atlanta chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Vice President of the Atlanta chapter of the American Nuclear Society, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Whitfield married Shirley Brown McPhaul on June 25, 1931. Together, they had three children: Clare Grantham Whitfield (b. 1936), Dr. Randolph Whitfield, Jr. (b. 1938), and Mary Croom Whitfield Coward (b. 1943). Clare was once married to NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart. Randolph, Jr. is a well-known opthalmologist in Kenya, working to promote health in African countries. Mary's son, Randolph Whitfield McDow, graduated from Georgia Tech in 1995, and, like his grandfather, participated in the Co-op program and was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa.
Shirley died in October 1996, at the age of 86. Randolph Whitfield remarried in 1997 at the age of 88 to Julia Gatewood Pearson, whose first husband, T. Brooks Pearson, was also a Georgia Tech graduate. They lived in Canterbury Court, an Episcopal assisted living center. Randolph and Julia were married until her death in 2006 at the age of 92.
Randolph Whitfield died on August 1, 2009, at the age of 100.
A print copy of this finding aid is available in the Georgia Tech Archives reading room.
Accession No. 2011.086. Donated by Randolph Whitfield McDow in 2011.