Why you should know about Monroe Whitesides


Something should be written about Monroe Whitesides.

Spectrum News reported his death last week and the Observer published the paid obituary, but Monroe deserved more.

He’d been a noteworthy lawyer in Mecklenburg County for decades. He ran the Criminal Division of the District Attorney’s office. In private practice, he helped little guys fight City Hall and the NFL get the evidence on Greg Hardy. He represented the snitch in the notorious Loomis Fargo heist.

Monroe was a favorite of media-types needing off the record insight or a comment on camera. I used him frequently on radio.

He served his community and church generously.

All that would surely justify something being written about Monroe Whitesides, but it’s not why I am.

We often crossed paths in conversation working out at the YMCA. At some point, I noticed Monroe hadn’t been there for a while. When I saw him at a coffee shop, he had a cane.

He answered the question on my face with a certain amazement and smile, “I haven’t been able to walk!”

Something had started to turn his feet inward. Doctors couldn’t figure it out. That was about three years ago.

They never did figure it out. Not as Monroe became confined to a wheel chair. Not as his hands began to crumple and his vision blur. Not as he came to need help with all of life’s everything. The doctors here, at Duke, even at the Mayo Clinic, never figured it out.

Now and then, I’d pick up sandwiches and go to his office. He’d pray before we ate. I’ve never been a pray-before-eating guy; an effect, maybe, of being forced by nuns as a kid.

It felt right when Monroe did, though. As he sat in his wheelchair folding his gnarled fingers in prayer, he gave genuine thanks for all the blessings in his life.

He would talk about his wife, Sandy; his kids, Trey and Hannah. And about what was happening to him.

In fact, Monroe spoke quite frankly about his rampaging illness, though always with his sparkling soft smile. Make no mistake – Monroe didn’t like what was happening to him, and especially what it was doing to his family. But he wore it like a loose garment.

He wore life, loosely. Monroe Whitesides lived his belief that life was not about this earth. He smiled even in all he faced because his faith possessed for him a peace that passed all understanding.

At Parkwood Baptist Church, Saturday, his pastor Jeff Long read a note Monroe had written.

“It is popular these days to have a ‘Bucket List’ of things you want to do before you die. I do not have such a list. The Lord has given me the desires of my heart already.

“I’ve had the privilege of marrying the only woman I have ever loved; the only woman who could get me into a Baptist church.”

“I have two children ... of whom I am so proud. My prayer is that they know Christ as their Lord and Savior and experience the blessings of fellowship with him. I will miss not being your best man, Trey, and walking Hannah down the aisle. But God has a plan for both of you and I am very proud to be your father.”

Something should be written about Monroe Whitesides. I’ll offer this: Well done, good and faithful servant.

Observer contributor Keith Larson can be heard weekdays 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. on and followed on Twitter @ClubLAMA.