“A large but very low-profile foundation in the South, despite being active in much of the region, is the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation. It provides scholarship assistance to deserving women at more than two hundred colleges and funds senior-care facilities for. elderly women. Letitia (“Lettie”) Pate, born into a prominent western Virginia family, married Joseph B. Whitehead, an attorney from Oxford, Mississippi. They settled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they had two sons. Whitehead and his colleague, Benjamin Thomas, secured the exclusive bottling rights for Coca-Cola, and in 1900, the Whiteheads relocated to Atlanta, where he opened a second bottling plant. His entrepreneurial and highly successful efforts to establish other bottlers around the South and the West was interrupted by his death six years later.

At the age of thirty-four, left with young children, Lettie Pate Whitehead, who had an acute business sense, took over the management of her late husband’s massive bottling and real estate holdings. Seven years later, she married Col. Arthur Kelly Evans, a retired Canadian Army officer. During their thirty-five-year union, they kept a home in Atlanta but also established a large estate, Malvern Hill, in Hot Springs, Virginia. Mentored by Robert W. Woodruff, whose family had acquired the Coca-Cola Company from the Asa Candler family, Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans prospered. Woodruff appointed her to the company’s board of directors—a position she held for almost twenty years—making  her one of the first women in America to serve on the board of a major corporation.

During her lifetime she and her sons gave away millions of dollars. She died in 1935, having outlived both her husbands and her sons. Her legacy includes three foundations, all managed by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation: the already-noted Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, and the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation

Source: lpwhitehead.org; authors’ correspondence with P. Russell Hardin.”

Excerpted from The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy, out now.

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