BY JOHN M. JONES JR.
Carlos Whaley, a Greene County native who had a successful career, retired to his home county in 2007 and became one of its most active volunteer leaders, died Tuesday at his home after a 14-month battle with cancer. He was 71.
During the approximately six years after he retired to a farm in northern Greene County, Whaley took on volunteer leadership roles in various areas of community life, especially ones related to the historical heritage of Greeneville, Greene County and the Northeast Tennessee area.
The Civil War era was a period of particular interest to him, and a focus of his involvement.
One of his first, most significant, and most demanding volunteer roles was as co-chairman of the Andrew Johnson Bicentennial Celebration in 2007-08, in partnership with the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
The Greene County Heritage Trust recognized him in December 2012 with an Special Award of Merit, cited him for exemplifying "a deep personal commitment to historic preservation of our heritage."
Among other specific contributions in this area of community life, the Heritage Trust noted that he served as co-chairman of the East Tennessee Sesquicentennial Civil War Commission and the first chairman of the Greene County Heritage Week."
Role With NAMI
Another major focus of his volunteer interest was the field of mental illness and dealing with its challenges.
He was a former president of the Greeneville-Greene County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and had served as chairman of the Public Policy Platform Committee for NAMI-TN.
Whaley was particularly interested in helping veterans and their families to cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and worked extensively with veterans and their family members both in Greeneville and at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home.
In 2009, he was the recipient of the Fred Sackleh Award for Outstanding Affiliate Leadership, NAMI-TN's highest honor.
ORR: 'A SOLDIER AND SCHOLAR'
Local historian Dr. Robert Orr, who has for years been a key leader in matters relating to the community's historical heritage, worked closely with Whaley for years on a variety of projects and was a close friend.
In a statement Friday, Orr emphasized the breadth of Whaley's interests and achievements.
"Carlos Whaley was a soldier, scholar, computer expert and businessman.
"As a U. S. Marine, he was wounded in combat in Vietnam before the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. He had a long and successful business career, and developed a farm in Greene County as a retirement home.
"His interest in history led him to contribute to various community ventures.
"In these efforts he was energetic, insightful, always the gentleman, always with a smile and a good word.
"His biographical lecture on Elbert Kinser was as good a history lecture as I ever heard.
"Sadly, the cancer that took his life surfaced just after the Kinser lecture, and he was never able to put it on paper.
"That is just one more thing we lost when we lost this great and good man."
BLANKS: BROAD IMPACT
George Blanks, president of the Greene County Heritage Trust, noted the many areas of community life in which Whaley took major leadership roles and said he thought Whaley's impact was far-reaching.
"How do you go about recognizing the significance of such a wonderful person as Carlos?" Blanks wrote in an emailed statement in response to a request for comment.
"Most people in this area, whether they know it or not, have been influenced in one way or another by this man.
"I believe that when you first think of Carlos, you think of his association with the historical community, such as the Greene County Heritage Trust, the Boone's Creek Heritage Trust, the Nathanael Greene Museum, the Battle of Blue Springs, and the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Civil War.
"He was one of the instigators of Greene County History Week and Heritage Month, events that probably would not have taken place without his efforts.
"But there was more to Carlos than that," Blanks said. "He was a deeply religious man and active in his church.
"Carlos was deeply involved with the mental health community and for a number of years was chairman of NAMI.
"He loved this community and was involved in many community activities. Our lives here are better because of the existence of this man."
WATTS: 'A TRUE VOLUNTEER'
Lizzie Watts, superintendent of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, co-chaired the Bicentennial Celebration of the birth of President Andrew Johnson with Whaley in 2007-08 and worked with Whaley on numerous other local and area projects relating to historical matters.
She described him "a silent leader" and "a true volunteer," and a person of outstanding personal qualities.
"Carlos Whaley," she stated Friday, "was a true friend to all. He was kind, peaceful, loving and dedicated to family, to history, to the military and to our community. He was a silent leader in many parts of our community and a true volunteer.
"He chose to volunteer to be involved in many ways in our community, and he always accomplished his goals.
"He was co-chair of the Andrew Johnson Bicentennial Celebration, where he led the community and the state in remembering the 17th President of the United States and the tragic times of the Civil War.
"He conducted over 100 programs throughout the state on the accomplishments and changes made by President Andrew Johnson, the important role that East Tennessee played in the Civil War, and the effect of the Civil War on our history.
"He was an extremely knowledgeable historian and a wonderful presenter that brought history alive.
"He cared about preserving the stories and challenges of our young nation and did all he could to keep history alive and well in America.
"He and his wife Connie accompanied me to Washington, D.C., when the park was competing for funds for the Bicentennial project, and their support helped secure the funding.
"I believe that the great success of Andrew Johnson Bicentennial, which was a wonderful community event,was due to Carlos' leadership skills, dedication to excellence, and devotion in preserving our nation's history.
"He was a true friend of the National Park Service and the staff at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
"He worked with the Park Service and a group of the Battle of Blue Springs historians to create the School of the Civil War Soldier program, where 100 Scouts camped at the Andrew Johnson Homestead and experienced what it was like to be a young solider during the Civil War.
"He loved working with the youth, and it was very evident in the way he engaged and excited them as he shared his stories of different American soldiers.
"He was also the first to volunteer when the park needed assistance in presenting historical programs, organizing flag bearers for the Wreaths Across America program or carrying a wreath in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps.
"He was on the board of the East Tennessee Civil War Roundtable, served as president of the Nathanael Greene Museum and was the president of the Boone's Creek Historical Society.
"His presence in our local community of Greene County and East Tennessee will be greatly missed as he was a true historian, volunteer, friend, family man and civic leader who now has gone home."
An obituary will be published next week. A Celebration of Life event is planned for Saturday, Nov. 23.