Lettie Pate Whitehead was born Letitia Pate in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1872. She was educated at private schools in Bedford and Lynchburg. In 1895, she married Joseph Brown Whitehead, a young attorney, and they made their home in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead had two sons, Joseph B., Jr. and Conkey Pate.
In 1899, Mr. Whitehead and an associate approached The Coca-Cola Company with the idea of bottling Coca-Cola, a fountain beverage then growing in popularity in the South. The two entrepreneurs secured an exclusive contract to bottle and sell Coca-Cola throughout most of the United States. Mr. Whitehead and his family moved to Atlanta in 1903 to further develop the Coca-Cola bottling business. It prospered, and Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead quickly became business, church, and civic leaders in Atlanta.
Mr. Whitehead died in 1906 at the age of 42. Mrs. Whitehead immediately assumed responsibility for the family's business affairs, overseeing not only the expansion of the Coca-Cola bottling business, but also the family's real estate investments. She served as Chairman of the Board of the Whitehead Holding Company and President of the Whitehead Realty Company. Mrs. Whitehead became one of the first women to serve on the board of directors of a major American corporation, serving as director of The Coca-Cola Company for almost twenty years beginning in 1934.
Seven years after Mr. Whitehead's death, Mrs. Whitehead married Colonel Arthur Kelly Evans, a retired Canadian army officer. She and Col. Evans made their principal residence in Hot Springs, Virginia, where she became active in cultural and civic affairs.
Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans felt a keen sense of duty to those in need. A gracious and generous woman, she contributed to numerous charities during her lifetime. Her philanthropies in Georgia included major gifts to Agnes Scott College, Berry College, Emory University, Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and Georgia Institute of Technology. She served as a trustee of Emory University and Agnes Scott College.
In Virginia, she gave generously to the College of William and Mary, Washington and Lee University, Episcopal Theological Seminary, Episcopal High School, Hot Springs Valley Nursing Association, Protestant Episcopal Church Home, Boys Home in Covington, Old Customshouse in Yorktown, and Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg. She served as a trustee of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
Her benevolence extended also to England and France. She made personal donations to the Queen's Fund for air raid victims during World War II, furnished ambulances for the French, and served on the board of the American Hospital in Paris.
Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans survived both of her sons and her second husband. Her oldest son, influenced by his mother's generosity, created the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation as a memorial to his father. Her youngest son created the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation in honor of his mother. Through the benevolence of those two foundations and the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, charitable institutions and individuals continue to benefit from the extraordinary legacy of Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans.