LAURINBURG — Scott C. Witten, who served as the editor of The Laurinburg Exchange for several years, died on Sunday at the age of 51.
Witten spent about 30 years as a newspaper journalist, serving as a reporter at The Robesonian in Lumberton before becoming an editor for the now defunct Red Springs weekly. He was an award-winning journalist with the North Carolina Press Association for his writing in Robeson and Scotland counties.
In the mid-2000s, Witten underwent a kidney transplant and struggled with that challenge for many years.
Witten was being remembered this week by those he touched during his newspaper career.
“I ran into Scott at Golden Corral several days ago, and it was a different kind of Scott,” said State Rep. Garland Pierce. “Scott never really wanted to talk much about his personal life, but that day he seemed to just want to talk about life in general.”
Pierce said he’s known Witten since his days at The Robesonian in Lumberton, then the St. Pauls weekly and finally at The Laurinburg Exchange.
“Scott was a good writer who really wanted to get to the root of most issues,” Pierce added. “He was very intelligent, a good guy and I always enjoyed talking with him.”
But bumping into Witten just days before his death has stuck with Pierce.
“I’m a pastor, so maybe I see that as something more than a chance meeting,” he said. “Is it possible Scott knew what was going to happen? Who knows. I just know Scott had an enemy he could not defeat with that dialysis — but he’s in a much better place now.”
According to Rena McNeill, an advisor with the Scotland County NAACP Youth ACT-SO organization, Witten was always interested in covering their events. The group focuses on leadership, community service and scholarships for local youth.
“He fully covered us, was very involved with our group and committed to our youth,” she said. “One of our students interned with Scott several years back and has gone on to the communications field, so he had a deep impact on her.”
McNeill said she will always remember Witten as a “very good writer who had a high level of thinking and witty sense of humor.”
She also said Witten is the only person who was honored with the organization’s Image Award — being presented with the Man of the Year Award in 2017 and Media Person of the Year in 2018.
“Scott will be sorely missed by many,” she added.
Witten was also on the board of Southeastern Family Services for several years.
Althea Simpson, general manager of The Laurinburg Exchange, remembers Witten as more than a colleague and friend.
“His intelligence, gentle personality, sense of humor and quick wit, and his ability to remain calm and unruffled in any situation were just a few of his outstanding character traits,” she said. “He touched the lives of so many in our community, in so many different ways. We lost him far too soon.”
Witten was also remembered by those he worked with at The Robesonian in Lumberton.
“This was very sad news,” said Denise Ward, regional publisher for Champion Media. “My time knowing and working with Scott was unfortunately short. For the time that I knew and spent with him, I would characterize him as a kind, gentle, but effective editor that fought the battle without complaint.
“He gave many years of service to an industry that he loved and was passionate about,” she added. “He will be remembered and missed by many.”
Donnie Douglas, editor of The Robesonian, worked closely with Witten for many years.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of Scott’s passing,” he said. “Scott was an excellent journalist who kept working despite poor health, doing so without complaint. But he was a dear friend to so many of us at this newspaper, affable, a great storyteller, and a mentor to so many young journalists who have come through here.”
A graveside service will be held on Friday noon at Cumberland Memorial Garden in Fayetteville. He is survived by his father, Colonel Witten; brother, Brian Witten; and a host of other relatives and friends. There will be a visitation Friday from 11:30 a.m. to noon at the cemetery. Arrangements are being handled by Wiseman Mortuary, Inc. of Fayetteville.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]