This Veterans’ Day we recognize William Whitham, a World War I veteran and a longtime photographer in Urbana and Champaign County. He was born on Sept. 12, 1875, in Ohio County, Pennsylvania. Whitham graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science degree and later received a Master of Science degree from Cornell University Ithaca, New York. He returned to West Virginia University as a member of the physics department. Later he was a professor of physics at Wabash University in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Dissatisfied with teaching, he left Wabash University and came to Urbana. In 1915 his address was the Grove Hotel, 126 E. Court Street where he was listed as an outdoor photographer. Whitham enlisted in the U. S. Army on May 24, 1917, at the age of 31. He served as a photographer with the 16th Engineers. He was discharged on May 8, 1919.
By 1920 he had opened a photographic studio at 110 ½ S. Main Street which was above the Lyric Theater (see photo – The Ohio Farmers Insurance Co. was at this address before Whitham). For many years he photographed school classes, sports teams, and businesses in Champaign County. The Champaign County Historical Museum has hundreds of Whitham photos. These photos are very valuable historical documents of people and places in Champaign County.
William H. Whitham was a veteran who served his country and community. He died in 1947 in the Veterans’ Hospital in Dayton.
The Champaign County Historical Museum is a not-for-profit organization that depends upon donations and dues to preserve, protect, archive and display the artifacts that tell the Champaign County story. The free public museum located at 809 E. Lawn Ave., Urbana, is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.