For­mer Gov. Mark White re­mem­bered in Hous­ton

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By John D. Har­den and Mike Tol­son Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Mark White was praised as a rum­bler, a risk-taker and a racon­teur as friends, col­leagues and fel­low po­lit­i­cal fig­ures — past and present — joined hun­dreds of mourn­ers Wed­nes­day to salute the late leader.

For­mer Texas Gov. HOUS­TON — Mark White was re­mem­bered as a rum­bler, a risk-taker and a racon­teur Wed­nes­day as friends, col­leagues and fel­low po­lit­i­cal fig­ures — past and present — joined hun­dreds of mourn­ers at Sec­ond Bap­tist Church on Wed­nes­day to salute the late leader.

White, who died Satur­day of a heart at­tack at 77, was re­spected by and close to Tex­ans across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, uni­ver­sally hailed as a nice guy who came from an era in which par­ti­san­ship did not pre­clude friend­ship.

That was un­der­scored by the bi­par­ti­san at­ten­dance at Wed­nes­day’s ser­vice, which in­cluded for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, Hous­ton Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Sec­re­tary of En­ergy Rick Perry.

“Mark White had courage,” Bush said in the fi­nal of four eu­lo­gies dur­ing the ser­vice. “He could rum­ble with the best of them and then ex­tend the hand of friend­ship.”

A por­trait of White hangs in the state Capi­tol along­side a list of all of his ac­com­plish­ments, Bush noted. But if you were to ask White, Bush said, he’d say his

most mean­ing­ful ac­com­plish­ment would be in Hous­ton: a school named Mark White El­e­men­tary.

Ear­lier, White’s son An­drew White said his fa­ther loved to be the life of the party. “His one big­gest re­gret is dy­ing and not be­ing able to at­tend his own fu­neral.”

An­drew White said his fa­ther al­ways put God first in ev­ery­thing he did, then coun­try, then fam­ily. His fa­ther, he said, be­lieved in do­ing right, tak­ing risks while not be­ing afraid of tak­ing the con­se­quences.

He then turned to his mother, not­ing that his fa­ther’s achieve­ments would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the sup­port of his wife of 50 years.

“Be­cause of you, Mom, Dad was able to take those risks,” he said.

Mark White served a sin­gle term as gov­er­nor, both de­feat­ing and then be­ing de­feated by Bill Cle­ments, his po­lar op­po­site in many re­spects.

He once de­scribed the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of good gov­ern­ment as “ba­sic and un­com­pli­cated. It asks two ques­tions be­fore any oth­ers: Is it right? Is it fair?”

Dur­ing his brief eu­logy, Bush said, “As Gov­er­nor 46, I’m thank­ful to be here for 43. Any se­ri­ous study of Texas his­tory will note that White was well-suited to be gov­er­nor.”

White also served as Texas at­tor­ney gen­eral, beat­ing fel­low Hous­ton lawyer James Baker in the lat­ter’s lone bid for elected of­fice. Baker went on to serve in the pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions of Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

White was the last male Demo­crat elected gov­er­nor, serv­ing from 1983 to 1987. He also was the last one to come from Hous­ton. His term marked the end of cen­trist rule, with fel­low Demo­crat Ann Richards — who de­feated him in the pri­mary race — of­fer­ing a fi­nal lib­eral salvo four years later be­fore the state be­came a Repub­li­can bas­tion.

Luci Baines John­son, daugh­ter of for­mer Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son, gave the first of four planned eu­lo­gies, speak­ing of her decades­long friend­ship with White.

“He may have re­tired from pub­lic of­fice, but he never re­tired from pub­lic ser­vice,” she said.

Likegov­er­nors be­fore and since, White was faced with the hercu---- lean task of im­prov­ing Texas ed­u­ca­tion. He fought for a teacher pay raise and the taxes to pay for it, be­liev­ing it was the duty of state gov­ern­ment to shoul­der the bulk of the fi­nan­cial bur­den for K-12 ed­u­ca­tion. In the years since, nei­ther the Leg­is­la­ture nor its lead­ers have felt such al­le­giance, with state sup­port drop­ping from two-thirds to about a third.

White’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to pass a pack­age of ed­u­ca­tion re­forms un­der the leg­isla­tive ti­tle of House Bill 72 not only brought teach­ers bet­ter com­pen­sa­tion but also re­duced class size and in­sti­tuted a broad sys­tem of ac­count­abil­ity. White be­lieved it to be ax­iomatic that min­i­mal ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment trumped par­tic­i­pa­tion in sports, a no­tion that at the time was con­sid­ered heresy across much of the state.

The “no pass, no play” pol­icy was roundly at­tacked by many coaches, par­ents, ad­min­is­tra­tors and school trustees. Like­wise, teach­ers dis­liked the new regime of stu­dent tests that be­came stan­dard­ized and manda­tory. Yet both have re­mained pol­icy ever since.

White’s ten­ure co­in­cided with the oil and real es­tate bust of the 1980s. The re­sult­ing drop in state rev­enue meant that new taxes to­tal­ing $4.6 bil­lion had to be im­posed if the ed­u­ca­tion re­forms and other im­por­tant mea­sures were to be re­al­ized. He ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­crease, know­ing it made re-elec­tion less likely.

White’s ten­ure was no­table for the ap­point­ment of a record num­ber of women and mi­nori­ties to pub­lic of­fice. He also pushed for greater at­ten­tion to con­sumer is­sues, and for the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of the Texas econ­omy.

The son of a school­teacher, White grad­u­ated from La­mar High School in Hous­ton and re­ceived un­der­grad­u­ate and law de­grees from Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity. Af­ter leav­ing pub­lic of­fice, he worked as a lawyer in the firm of Reynolds, White, Allen & Cook, and in a va­ri­ety of busi­ness ven­tures. He al­soserved on nu­mer­ous boards.

He is sur­vived by his wife, Linda Gale Thomp­son White; three chil­dren; and nu­mer­ous grand­chil­dren. His body will lie in state be­neath the Texas Capi­tol Ro­tunda in Austin on Thurs­day be­fore burial in the Texas State Ceme­tery.


DPS Honor Guard mem­bers es­cort the cas­ket of for­mer Texas Gov. Mark White into the memo­rial ser­vice in Hous­ton Wed­nes­day.


For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and his wife, Laura, ar­rive for Wed­nes­day’s ser­vice for for­mer Texas Gov. Mark White at Sec­ond Bap­tist Church in Hous­ton. He gave a eu­logy.


Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety Honor Guard mem­bers salute as the hearse ar­rives Wed­nes­day bear­ing the late Texas Gov. Mark White to his memo­rial ser­vice at Sec­ond Bap­tist Church in Hous­ton.

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