Dr. Leroy Whitaker passed away Monday, June 14, 2021 in his Dallas, Texas residence. He was born November 20, 1929 in Marshall, Texas as the third child of John W. Whitaker and Ruth Allums Whitaker. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Winifred and brother Richard.
Dr. Whitaker graduated from Paris High School, Paris, Texas in 1946 and from Paris Junior College in 1948. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry from what is now the University of North Texas in 1950 and 1952 respectively, and earned his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1955.
While in college Dr. Whitaker married Lu Brossard. They had two children, Steve and Cathie.
Dr. Whitaker began his career as a research chemist for Shell Chemical Company. He then moved to a senior research chemist position at Jefferson Chemical Company and later transferred to their Marketing Department. In January 1963, he was asked to join the Jefferson Patent Department as a patent agent and enrolled in the evening program of the Bates College of Law of the University of Houston, where he earned his J.D. degree.
In 1967, Dr. Whitaker joined Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, Indiana as a patent attorney. He was employed by Lilly for over twenty-six years, holding various positions. When he retired in December 1993, he was head of the Patent Department as Deputy General Counsel, General Patent Counsel and Assistant Secretary.
As an attorney, Dr. Whitaker was licensed to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Texas Supreme Court, the Indiana Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and the United States court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Dr. Whitaker belonged to the American Bar Association, the American Intellectual Property Law Association, Texas State Bar Association and the Indiana State Bar Association.
In his early years, Dr. Whitaker served as Boy Scout Leader and Little League baseball Assistant Coach. He was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church and enjoyed teaching Sunday school in the College Department.
Leroy married Wanda Swaim Rutland in Portland, Texas on November 26, 1994. They had been friends at Paris High School in 1944 and renewed their friendship 50 years later.
After retiring, Dr. Whitaker consulted and served as a patent law expert in patent litigation. While living in Portland, Texas he was on the Planning and Zoning Commission of Portland, Texas, and the First United Methodist Church Board of Trustees. Dr. Whitaker was also appointed, by then Texas Governor George Bush, as a public representative of the Executive Committee of the Market Association Program of the Texas Department of Insurance. He also served as a delegate to the Texas State Republican Convention several times.
Dr. Whitaker spent the majority of his retirement supporting the University of North Texas in various capacities. He established a Charitable Remainder Unitrust to provide scholarships for deserving students, with the remainder aiding the Chemistry Department. Dr. Whitaker was a member of the Advisory Board of the Department of Chemistry and the External Development and Advisory Board of the College of Arts and Sciences. He also chaired a committee to raise $1,000,000 to match a Welch Foundation grant to endow a chair in the Chemistry Department and served as the College of Arts and Science chairman for a university-wide capital campaign that readily exceeded its $150,000,000 goal.
Dr. Whitaker received several honors through the years. He was named to Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges and was listed in Marquis Who’s Who in the world, Tenth Edition. Governor Evan Bayh named Dr. Whitaker a Sagamore of the Wabash in the State of Indiana. Paris Junior College named Dr. Whitaker a Distinguished Alumnus and the University of North Texas presented him with the Outstanding Alumnus Service Award, as well as the UNT Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.
Dr. Whitaker is survived by his wife Wanda Swaim Whitaker of Dallas and his two children: Steve Whitaker of Seattle, Washington and Cathie Chapman and husband Ralph, currently living on a sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean. His three grandchildren include: Kristin Whitaker Hancock and husband Casey of Phoenix, Arizona, John Schlatter and wife Monica of Valparaiso, Indiana, and Jen Von Essen and partner Tim Lister of Austin, Texas, along with one great-grandson, Camden Whitaker Hancock of Phoenix, Arizona. Step-children include: Brian Walker and wife Katie of Plano, Texas, Larry Walker and wife Liz of Lakeway, Texas, Jill Walker Pierce and husband John (J.) of The Woodlands, Texas, along with six step-grandchildren and six step-great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are set for 11 AM on Friday, June 18th, 2021 at the Evergreen Cemetery Open Air Chapel under the direction of The Fry and Gibbs Funeral Home with Pastor Ed Sanchez of Dallas officiating. Visitation will be one hour immediately prior to the service at the Open Air Chapel.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts be made in Dr. Whitaker’s memory to Methodist Children’s Home, 1111 Herring Avenue, Waco, Texas 76708.