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“W” is for Whitten, Benjamin Otis (1886-1970)

“W” is for Whitten, Benjamin Otis (1886-1970). Physician. A native of Pendleton, Whitten received his medical degree from the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1916 he joined the staff of the South Carolina State Hospital for the Insane in Columbia. The facility was undergoing reform and patients were diagnosed as either “feeble-minded” or “insane.” In 1918, the legislature created a separate facility at Clinton--the South Carolina Training School for the Feeble-Minded--and Whitten was appointed its first superintendent. He developed a national reputation as a skilled institutional administrator, instituting training programs for residents, and advocating his facility throughout the state. In 1937 Whitten was elected president of the American Association on Mental Deficiency. When Benjamin Otis Whitten retired in 1965, Whitten Village (as the facility was called) had a resident population of more than 2,500.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.