Monday, May 14, 2007

Alfred Wayne White (1930-2007)

Award-winning newspaperman Alfred Wayne White passed away on Saturday, May 12, 2007, in Mesquite, Texas, at the age of 76.

People who knew him from his early days called him Wayne. Those who knew him later called him Al. Two people called him Daddy. As he was more often called Al, that is how he will be called here.

Al was born on July 15, 1930, in Alice, Texas, the son of Annie Leona and William Abner White. He grew up in Mineral Wells and worked from an early age to help his mother make ends meet. Throughout his teen years he worked as an usher at the Grande Theatre. In high school he played trumpet in the band, and played it so well he often went with his band director to Fort Worth where they performed in dance clubs. Once he sat in with the Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Tex Benecke. He was notorious in Mineral Wells for taking his trumpet into the projection booth at the Grande Theatre whenever Harry James was on the screen, turning off the sound during James’ solo, and performing the solo himself. Underestimating his own talents was not one of Al's faults.

In 1950 he married his high school sweetheart Mary Kathryn Walker. During the Korean War, he served in the United States Army as a radio operator in Alaska monitoring Soviet air traffic over the Bering Strait. After his discharge, he returned to Texas and briefly considered a career in music, but decided it would not provide the steady income he needed to support his wife and family. So he took a job as a printer at the Arlington Citizen-Journal and there discovered the newspaper business.

In 1960, after the Citizen-Journal acquired the Mansfield News-Mirror, he became editor of that paper and won numerous awards from the Texas Press Association. Later, while still editing the News-Mirror, he also edited the DeSoto Star. In 1965, he moved his family to Cleburne where he founded his own paper, the Johnson County News and later the Burleson Star. He and his wife worked on the paper together until 1974, when the paper was sold. Later he was editor of the Lancaster News and for a time worked in the editorial department of the Dallas Times-Herald.

In 1987, Al married his second wife, Edna Partin Loden, and lived with her in Garland for the remainder of his life.

Al was a devoted father. His son and daughter could always count on him to come to their aid in any kind of difficulty. He encouraged them in all their interests and pursuits, and was proud of their accomplishments. In good times and bad, through all the ups and downs of his life, there was never a time when his children did not feel his unconditional and undying love. They cherish his memory.

He was always telling jokes. He loved to laugh and make others laugh. He told good stories, too, about his childhood, his Army days, newspaper days, and other experiences. Certain details of his stories would change from time to time, as he had a tendency to embellish. Whenever this was pointed out to him, he would laugh and liken himself to the Civil War veteran who said to another veteran: “Y’know, I’ve lied about that battle so often, I forgot what actually did happen.”

He also loved to read, and he loved music and cooking and fishing and taking road trips. He loved the Brazos River. He loved the Texas coast. He loved America. And he loved dogs. Especially dogs. He adopted many of them over the years. The latest of these adoptees, a dachshund named Hot Dog, is inconsolable over the loss of Al, as are we all.

Al, or Wayne, or Daddy, as he was variously called, is deeply mourned. He is mourned by both his second wife Edna and first wife Mary Kathryn. He is mourned, too, by his grown children and their spouses: son Mack White and daughter-in-law Diane Burns; daughter Mary LaVell Wagner and son-in-law Timothy Wagner. His grandchildren, Chandra Bashara, Hal Wagner, and Jake Wagner also mourn him.

His great-grandchildren, Isabella Bashara and Hendrix Wagner, will barely remember him in the years to come, but they will be told about him, and they will know him through us. They will know how he delighted in them and was proud of them and loved them, and loves them still.

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh

A military funeral honors ceremony for Alfred Wayne White will be held at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. The date has not yet been set.