Lenbrook celebrates Women’s History Month: Elaine Whitehurst

From 50s Fashion Icon to Court of Appeals of Georgia Judge, Lenbrook Women Make History
Many very accomplished women live at Lenbrook. During Women’s History Month, we will share some of their stories and advice.

Public Speaking Ability Set Stage for Elaine Whitehurst’s Career

Elaine Whitehurst was born in the middle of the Great Depression in Macon, Georgia, graduating high school just after World War II. She was determined to go to college and worked at various radio stations while attending Wesleyan College during the day and living at home with her family.

For her first year of college, she received a scholarship from the college that paid for half of her tuition. She kept that scholarship each remaining year by being the top student in the Speech program – all while working 20 hours a week. Being a great public speaker set the stage for her future successes.

After school, she married James Whitehurst, an Army officer. She soon learned that employers wouldn’t hire her, believing her to be ‘transient’ due to her husband’s military status. After Jim was discharged from the Army and the couple moved back to Macon, Elaine began working at WMAZ-TV interviewing and writing copy.

Later, she became a stay-at-home mom for their two boys and got involved in the community, eventually serving as president of the Macon Junior Woman’s Club. The club nominated her for the Mrs. Macon contest, sponsored by Atlanta Gas Light Co., that tested homemaking skills, civic contributions, and public speaking ability. She became Mrs. Macon, Mrs. Georgia, and runner-up to Mrs. America 1964. She spent most of that year making motivational speeches to women’s groups and children all over Georgia.

“I made many speeches to lots of audiences about civics and patriotism,” Elaine said. 

Later, when a local university refused to hire her for a job for which she was qualified just because she wasn’t a man, she decided to apply to Emory Law School. There she used her public speaking prowess to excel in Moot Court competitions, earning the best orator and best legal brief awards for three years!

After graduating with her law degree, she was hired by a law firm whose senior partner had seen her skills demonstrated in a Moot Court competition. She began working on cases representing doctors who were being sued for medical malpractice. She had to study the medical facts to persuade the jury that it was their duty to decide whether a bad medical result was actually the fault of medical personnel. It was a job she very much enjoyed.

Eventually, Elaine and Jim bought a place in Highlands, N.C., where at various times she served as president of each of four community organizations for which she had volunteered. They moved to Lenbrook in 2013 and recently celebrated the birth of their first great-granddaughter.

“Lenbrook is well built and run, but the most outstanding thing are the people who live here, as everyone has had an interesting life,” Elaine said. “Here, I am in charge of the Great Courses program which provides educational DVDs every week or so to residents. It’s a great place to live!”