PALESTINE — Known for his strong faith and his wisdom on and off the bench, longtime Palestine attorney Melvin Whitaker was remembered by his colleagues and friends Monday.
Whitaker, 81, a former state district judge, district attorney and city council member, passed away Sunday morning after collapsing from heart failure as he prepared to lead a Sunday school Bible class at Evangelistic Temple.
“His death is a great loss to not only the church but to the whole community. He impacted a lot of people,” the Rev. Jason Harris, pastor of Evangelistic Temple told the Herald-Press Monday. “The man was highly respected in the community and in the church. His desire was to serve the Lord. He had the largest Sunday school class in the church. People admired his insight into the scriptures so much.”
Harris said he has personally leaned on Whitaker for advice throughout the years.
“He was someone I looked up to tremendously. He was known for his wisdom. He was a man full of grace. He would never say a bad word about anyone — even if there were words to be said. He always said something good about people,” Harris continued. “When I first became pastor, he was one of the first men I reached out to for advice. I valued his input that much.”
Whitaker was born Sept. 16, 1932, in Old Gulf, Matagorda County to George and Lenora Whitaker. They moved to Coahoma in Howard County shortly after he was born, later moving to Houston in 1943. He graduated from high school in 1951, attending Baylor University for one quarter before entering the United States Marine Corp, where he served during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. After his discharge, he graduated from Baylor University in 1957 with a B.A. degree and a D.J. degree from Baylor Law School in 1958.