Don Triplett, the first person diagnosed with autism, dead at 89

Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 9:29 PM CDT
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SCOTT CO., Miss. (WLBT) - He’s the subject of a popular book, a PBS documentary, and countless magazine stories and medical journal articles, and his name has its own entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

But to employees at the Bank of Forest, he was simply, “Don.”

Donald G. Triplett, 89, who worked 65 years at the bank in Scott County died Thursday morning.

Triplett was known worldwide as “Case 1″ - the first person to be diagnosed with autism.

Triplett worked at the bank for about 65 years, according to CEO Allen Breland, whose own 36-year tenure makes him a relative newcomer there.

“Don was a remarkable individual,” Breland said of the fiercely independent savant. “And he kept things interesting.”

Though he came across to newcomers as strange and obsessive, Triplett had a facility with numbers that made phone directories obsolete in his presence.

“He was in his own world,” Breland said, “but if you gave him two three-digit numbers, he could multiply them faster than you could get the answer on a calculator.”

Triplett enjoyed golf and travel, and was frequently jetting off by himself to exotic locales, according to Breland. He was a 1958 graduate of Millsaps College.

His father, Beaman Triplett, had been a prominent attorney and primary shareholder at the bank where Don Triplett eventually went to work.

His groundbreaking autism diagnosis had arisen from a meticulously detailed 22-page letter his father composed when Donald was just a child.

The letter was full of telling observations that Beamon and his wife, Mary Triplett, had made of their son’s aptitudes and behavior. It was received by a Johns Hopkins researcher in Baltimore with great interest. The letter remains a primary reference document for those who study autism.

A book titled “In a Different Key,” documented Triplett’s diagnosis, and led to a documentary film and BBC news magazine installment.

Donald Triplett would have been 90 in September.

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