After 10 Years Helping Crime Victims, Betty Whitten Retires

She's someone you may not know by name, but to the victims of violent crime in Smith County, she means everything.

For the last 10 years, Betty Whitten was a shoulder to cry on, and support for those who had questions about the legal system.

Friday she retired from her job as Director of Crime Victims Services.

She's leaving behind her passion and the department she's built from the ground up.

Betty Whitten has sat in the victim's room at the Smith County Courthouse many times, seen many tears. Friday, they were hers.

"When you're helping people it makes it worthwhile," says Whitten.

When Betty started in May of 1995, there was no CrimeVictims Services Department, only a vision.

"When I got here, the training I got was a composition book with about 12 to 15 names in it," says Betty. "So, I had to build something to know working with victims of violent crime was important. "I wrote a grant in 1998 and hired two staff members and Judge Skeen was the leader."

She worked side by side with Skeen. Then, he was district attorney.

"And he was determined the program would work by allowing me to work it out the way i wanted to do things," says Betty. "And we were partners in it and I respect him very much. I am very grateful to him."

Betty gives him the credit, but Skeen says she was the one who made the difference.

Judge Jack Skeen says, "There are so many victims. I wish they could all stand here in place of me and they would say she has done so much for them and helped them through the most traumatic times and suffering and loss that you could ever imagine."

Betty says with her job, she has to be ready everyday for an emergency. Yesterday, it was helping victims of an afternoon bank robbery and a homicide from the day before.

But, the one that still gets to her, "the Laney trial, the Laney trial," says Betty. "Because of the heartache, pain and suffering that the family went through and I went there that night to the crime scene and worked with the family all night and of course, they are just wonderful people, but it just broke my heart."

It's that kind of dedication, that's made Betty's Crime Victims Services Department something to emulate.

One of her many accomplishments sits on the Tyler Downtown Square, the granite wall dedicated to victims of violent crime.

Her program has become such a success, Betty has been asked to teach district attorneys' offices all over the state.

Now, at 65, she still has some challenges ahead of her.

She's leaving the department to work in her store, Daisy's.

Not to worry though, Betty says she's leaving the Smith County Crime Victims Services Department in good hands.

Dana Dixon, reporting.