Rebecca Whitten, widow of congressman, dies

Rebecca Whitten, widow of congressman, dies

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Friends and relatives describe her as a beautiful, elegant, spirited woman who embodied the attributes of “a true Southern American lady.”

Rebecca Thompson Whitten, a Saltillo native, later came to love Washington, D.C., during more than a half-century there with her husband, the late U.S. Rep. Jamie Whitten.

Rebecca Whitten died early Tuesday at her home in Charleston. She was 83.

“She was a blond beauty. All the boys were crazy about her,” Florence Patterson of Tupelo, a cousin who used to spend many nights with Rebecca’s family in Saltillo, recalled of the girl.

“A kinder, gentler person never existed,” Patterson said. “She never projected herself (into the limelight). She was a true Southern lady.”

Jean Smith, a longtime family friend, said a nurse discovered the body about 6 a.m. Tuesday.

“The doctor said her heart just gave out. It was heart failure,” said Smith, who managed a team of nurses who had cared for the Whitten couple for some time. “It’s very sad.”

Jamie Whitten died last September at age 85, just nine months after completing his record 53rd year in Congress. It is a mark that is expected to stand for many years.

The Mississippi House adjourned in Mrs. Whitten’s honor Tuesday, and Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, called Mrs. Whitten a very strong behind-the-scenes influence on Mr. Whitten.”

She was beloved,” Holland said.

“I haven’t seen Rebecca since Jamie’s death,” recalled another cousin, David Baker of Tupelo. But he did see the Whittens through the years when they returned for holidays and other visits to Mississippi from Washington.

“She was crazy about Washington. That’s what she really considered her home,” Baker noted.

“She was still up and going,” Smith said of Mrs. Whitten. “If fact, we were going to go to lunch today and pick up her makeup and whatnot. But we knew she had a really bad heart.”

She was the daughter of John B. Thompson and Lola Holland Thompson of Saltillo.

A spokesman at Newsom Funeral Home in Charleston said arrangements would not be completed until the Whittens’ son arrived from Washington and their daughter from Texas. She also had a brother in Florence, Ala., and a sister in Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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