"Facebook was lighting up with discussion about him," said Todd Bornscheuer, the principal of Silver Bluff High School. "That is neat."
Mr. Bornscheuer said his office also has been receiving a lot of calls from former students sending their condolences to the Whitson family.
Mr. Whitson, who was Silver Bluff High's first principal and had a 37-year career as an educator in Aiken County, died Monday at age 65 at his home in Aiken. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at First Baptist Church, with his burial to follow in Fairfax Cemetery.
Those who knew him said he left behind a legacy of community and school dedication, having served twice as the principal of Silver Bluff, most recently retiring there about three years ago, and overseeing Midland Valley High as its principal for about 12 years.
"I feel like he from top down set the tone for what this school was going to be all about," said Mr. Bornscheuer, who worked as an assistant principal before taking over at Silver Bluff after Mr. Whitson's retirement. "He set a tone and a standard that has just been an amazing part of this community."
Bill Gallman, a longtime friend and colleague of Mr. Whitson, said Wednesday that he "was strongly committed to students and making their lives better."
He said Mr. Whitson was a great organizer and was good at defusing tense situations by telling a quick story.
"He had a great sense of humor," Dr. Gallman said. "He was a master storyteller. ... People just sort of rallied around him."
Mr. Whitson also was remembered as a family man who enjoyed camping, hunting, fishing, water sports and motorcycles.
"He's a guy who is really going to be missed," Dr. Gallman said. "Friends and family have a tremendous void to fill with his memories and sort of following his examples. He was a quite an individual and a good friend."
Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.