LAURINBURG — Scott Witten, a former reporter and managing editor for The Robesonian, has died. He was 51 years old.
Witten, who died Sunday, joined The Robesonian on Nov. 18, 1988, as a reporter and later worked as its managing editor. Most recently, he worked as editor of the Laurinburg Exchange, a sister newspaper of The Robesonian.
Witten spent about 30 years as a newspaper journalist. He was a recipient of numerous North Carolina Press Association awards for his writing in Robeson and Scotland counties.
Witten suffered from kidney failure. In the mid-2000s, he underwent a kidney transplant and struggled with that challenge for many years.
Witten was being remembered by the people 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’d known Witten since his days at The Robesonian in Lumberton, then the St. Pauls and Red Springs weeklies and finally at The Laurinburg Exchange.
“Scott was a good writer who really wanted to get to the root of most issues,” Pierce said. “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,” Pierce 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.”
She will always remember Witten as a “very good writer who had a high level of thinking and witty sense of humor,” McNeill said.
She also said Witten is the only person who was honored with the organization’s Image Award. Witten was presented the organization’s Man of the Year Award in 2017 and the Media Person of the Year in 2018.
“Scott will be sorely missed by many,” McNeill said.
Witten also was 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 also was 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. 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.”
There is an obituary in today’s newspaper on Witten. The services are on Friday in Cumberland County, where Witten was born.
C. Curt Vincent is editor of The Laurinburg Exchange. He can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3023.