John Whatley

John Rubin Whatley, 85, of Pine Bluff went on to Glory Thursday morning, October 10, 2013.

John was born in Winnsboro, La. to the late John E. May and the late Clara CooperNichols. John was adopted and reared in McGehee, Ark. by the late Eliza Whatley. He graduated from the public school system in McGehee. Following an Honorable Discharge after a three year period of service to his country with the U.S. Army and Air Force (and service to others truly defined this fine child of God), John came to Pine Bluff where he graduated from his beloved Arkansas AM&N College.

It was in Pine Bluff where John married the love of his life, Jewell Canady, and settled in for 62+ years of devotion to Jewell, his family, and this community.

John retired from the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) and the Pine Bluff Arsenal following a combined 33 years of civil service. His career spanned a number of assignments including Ammunition Handler, Biology Lab Technician, and teratology Biologist (study of birth defects). In the Teratology Department he was also highly trained as a microphotographer, which went hand-in-hand with his love of photography.

Highlighting John’s commitment to making a difference and his desire to serve he was elected as President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3393 at NCTR, serving for seven years. He extended that commitment by serving as President of The Central Arkansas Council of AFGE Locals for eleven years. John also served as initial President of the Central Arkansas Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG). Charted here in 1986, BIG served minority employees in federal, state, county, and city government.

With an amazing constitution, during his retirement he continued to give back to the community. As a bus driver he safely transported many students to and from school. He even went above and beyond, becoming the driver for the Pine Bluff High School cheerleaders for events all over Arkansas. He was extremely proud to be entrusted with the saftey of “his girls” and had great love for these young ladies, as well as for young people in general.

John also spent several years working with youth in the criminal justice system. He directed a mentoring program and worked as a baliff in Judge Tom Brown’s juvenile court. His interest and commitment to youth was also demonstrated as a leader in scouting in the 60’s.

Few things were as passionate for John as his “Jewell,” his family, AM&N, and St. Paul Bapist Church. As a longtime member of St. Paul, John served as General Superintendent of the Sunday School and was a member of both the Sanctuary Choir and the Inspirational Singers. John loved using his smooth voice making a joyful noise to The Lord and had tenures as president of both choirs.

John effectively led a group of north Pine Bluff residents and businesses who were instrumental in convincing Simmons First to establish the University branch office of the bank. Other affiliations include the Twentieth Century Club, the NAACP, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. John also was an on-air personality at the inception of the KCAT radio station.

John leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Jewell; daughter Renee; son, Dietrix (Jacqueline); three grandchildren, Johnny Smith, III, Christopher Whatley, and Debra’l Lowe; brother-in-law, Calvin Canady (Jewel), and a host of neighbors, friends, and associates. Never without his warm, famous smile and genuine spirit of good will, John is sorely missed yet clearly continuing his service at the right hand of our Lord.

A memorial service for Mr. Whatley will be held at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, October 17, 2013 at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church with the Reverend Steven E. King, officiating. Interment will be in the Cedar Grove section of Graceland Cemetery with services entrusted to the P.K. Miller Mortuary. A family hour will be from 6-7p.m. at the mortuary on Wednesday. Online register: