Whitten was one of eight children born to James Washington Whitten and Ophelia (Elrod) Whitten of South Carolina. He earned his bachelor's degree in architecture at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1928. He was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and served as historian of his junior class and as editor of the Glomerata in his senior year. While at Auburn, Whitten was enlisted to speak for students who were protesting the presidency of Spright Dowell. He was not personally involved in the protests, which were partially motivated by the poor performance of the football team after Dowell's dismissal of star quarterback Frank Tuxworth, and which resulted in the destruction of Toomer's Corner's oak trees. He was likely the artist of a cartoon depiction of the scene, entitled "Hell Broke Loose", which was printed in the Glomerata.
Whitten began his career back in his home town as a draftsman for the firm of Casey & Fant. He moved to Birmingham in 1928 to take a job with Miller & Martin, then joined David Whilldin's firm a year later. He married the former Ardelle Smith in 1930 and had two sons, Lawrence Jr (born 1932) and James. They resided at 2315 21st Avenue South.
In 1931, likely unemployed due to the Great Depression, he entered into private practice. In 1932 he found work as an architectural lighting consultant with the Birmingham Electric Company. He remained there until 1937, when he joined the firm of Charles H. McCauley. From 1942 to 1945 Whitten served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but returned to McCauley's office afterward.
In 1950 Whitten started his own practice. Six years later he added his older son, Lawrence Jr, to the firm, which became Lawrence Whitten & Son. His younger son, James, also joined, in 1968. Whitten was an active member of the Downtown Improvement Association and served as president of Alabama Society of Architects in 1953.
Whitten Sr died in August 1968.
- 1956 American Architects Directory (December 1955) American Institute of Architects / R. R. Bowker, p. 601-602
- 1692 American Architects Directory American Institute of Architects / R. R. Bowker, p. 758
- "Mr. Whitten." obituary (August 27, 1968) The Birmingham News
- Strickland, (January 18, 2015) "That time Auburn students burned a Toomer's oak" The War Eagle Reader - accessed March 23, 2016