Tammie Gercken/The News Herald
The Rotary Club of Morganton has announced its choice for the 2016 Distinguished Person of the Year.
Morganton native Scott Whisnant is a retired attorney who has a long history of service to the community.
Whisnant graduated from Morganton High School in 1968 and already knew he wanted to practice law.
“It was a childhood hope, and that’s what I geared my undergraduate work for,” Whisnant said.
He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science. He went on to receive his J.D. law degree, cum laude, from the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University in 1975.
He returned directly to Morganton and began practicing law with a firm that became Byrd, Byrd, Ervin and Whisnant.
“I knew them (the other attorneys) by reputation and had some contact with them as an undergraduate and when I was in law school,” Whisnant said.
He started out as a general practitioner, then later specialized in disability and workers’ compensation cases.
“I represented a fairly large number of people over my years of practice,” Whisnant said.
Whisnant’s achievements were recognized early on when he was named the “Young Man of the Year” by the Morganton Jaycees in 1978, of which he was a member.
He is a former board member of First Citizens Bank, the Mimosa Hills Country Club and the Blue Ridge HealthCare Foundation. He served on the board of BRHCF at a time when board members were overseeing the fundraising for and construction of Phifer Wellness Center, which opened in 1996.
Whisnant has been a trustee for the Beatrice Cobb Trust since 1987, a legacy position he inherited from his father. The trust was set up by Beatrice Cobb, former owner and publisher of The News Herald, in 1959 to fund area churches and community organizations with annual disbursements.
“I always had some interest from it through my dad, who was one of the original trustees,” he said.
Whisnant is the current chair of the Morganton Parks and Recreation Foundation, a board he’s served on for the past 25 years.
“We help facilitate a lot of projects for the city of Morganton,” he said.
He also serves on the board of the Senior Deaf and Blind Community, which is responsible for the construction of the Alder Springs Retirement Center.
Whisnant recently returned to the board of the Good Samaritan Clinic, which he had been on from 2009-15, to serve as treasurer. The Good Samaritan Clinic provides low-cost medical and dental treatment for area residents who otherwise would not be able to afford quality health care.
“I had a good friend who was involved with them, and I recognized it was a vital need for our community,” Whisnant said.
Whisnant is a long-time member of First United Methodist Church in Morganton and has served on various church committees during his time there.
He is the son of Ben and Kathryn Whisnant. His father is deceased, but his mother still lives in Morganton. He is married to Dana Sherrill Whisnant, who works as an assistant vice president at Morganton Savings Bank.
Whisnant has two daughters. Alison Saville lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband, Steve, and son, Henry. Adair Cates lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Chris, and their twin daughters, Joy and Coral.
Whisnant has one sister, Tina Conley, who lives in Morganton with her husband, Charles.
He said he was honored to receive the Distinguished Person of the Year nomination.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Whisnant said. “I think there are a whole lot of others who work selflessly for the community, so I think any number of people could be the Distinguished Person of the Year.”
Rotary Club President Hugh Morgan said he is pleased with the club’s choice.
“The secret committee of the Rotary Club who selected Scott Whisnant to be the 2016 Distinguished Person of the Year was unanimous in the view that he was the person to receive this honor,” Morgan said. “Scott’s life has epitomized the Rotary theme of ‘Service Above Self.’ I could not be more delighted with this nomination.”