Former governor White dead at 69
He handed Clinton a rare defeat in 1980
BY KIM MCGUIRE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
††††Frank Durward White, who as governor helped legitimize Arkansasí Republican Party and as a businessman spent his life selling the state to the world, died Wednesday night at his home in Little Rock. ††††He was 69. ††††Despite decades as a leader of Little Rockís business community and years of public service, White is known outside Arkansas as the man who defeated Bill Clinton in the 1980 governorís race, a contest many thought Clinton could not lose. ††††Still, the former president said he considered White a friend and offered his wife and family condolences when contacted Wednesday night. ††††"I am very sorry to learn of his passing. Hillary and I send our prayers to Gay and his family," Clinton said in a statement. "While we were opponents in the past, we established a good friendship, and I liked him very much." ††††White and former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, RArk., are the only two men ever to beat Clinton in an election, and White is responsible for the only break in the former attorney general, governor and presidentís hold on a public office between 1976 and 2001. ††††White often said that Clin-
tonís decision to accommodate Cuban refugees at Fort Chaffee and raise the cost of automobile licenses cost him the 1980 election. ††††As governor, however, White stirred controversy when he signed a law requiring teachers to include "creation science" in the curriculum if they also chose to teach the theory of evolution. ††††Federal Judge William R. Overton ruled later that the law was an unconstitutional advancement of religion in the public schools. Political cartoonist George Fisher satirized White by forever after depicting him with a banana in his hand to symbolize the governorís failed creation science law. ††††The flap did not deter White, who ran for governor in 1982 and 1986. Both times he lost to Clinton. ††††"Iíve always liked what Iíve done, but Iíve never been afraid to move on," he told an Arkansas Democrat reporter in 1989. "Iíve always thought I could take care of myself." ††††Born on June 4, 1933, in Texarkana, Texas, he went to a military academy in New Mexico, spent a year at Texas A&M University and, thanks to an appointment from Sen. John L. McClellan, attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He took his commission in the Air Force, and one of his first missions was to fly a division of the 101 st Airborne from Kentucky to Little Rock for the 1957 integration crisis at Central High School. ††††In 1961, after the Air Force, he took a job in Little Rock as an account executive at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith. He worked as a stockbroker and in other jobs until 1975, when Gov. David Pryor asked him to head the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. He spent two years in the job, selling the state to businesses around the nation and abroad. ††††Pryor, who first met White in the early 1960s in Little Rock, said late Tuesday that he considered White a close friend, "even though he chose to join another political party." ††††"He was a man of enormous good will. He was an irrepressible person in his optimism and his friendship, and he will be sorely missed by this community and by this state." ††††After losing the governorís office to Clinton in 1982, White joined the Little Rock investment banking firm of Stephens Inc. He later joined First Commercial Bank, now Regions Bank, as a senior vice president, where he served until July 1998, when Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed him acting state banking commissioner. ††††Huckabee, vacationing in the U.S Virgin Islands, said that Whiteís death was a great shock and personal loss to both he and first lady Janet Huckabee. ††††"He was not only a mentor, cabinet member and colleague, but a personal friend with whom I shared wonderful times at work as well as the duck woods," Huckabee said in a statement released Wednesday. "His acumen for assisting charitable endeavors was unsurpassed by any Arkansan, living or dead. His sense of humor will be missed. ††††"With Frank gone, his laughter will be replaced by our tears. I ask all Arkansans to join me in praying for Gay and all of Frankís family and in remembering this wonderful public servant." ††††Pryor, White, Clinton and four other living Arkansas governors reunited last July to raise money for renovations to the Governorís Mansion. ††††During dinner, each of the governors told stories. Hammerschmidt said White stole the show. ††††"He wowed them that night. It was Frank being Frank. It was so funny. He just had that gentle attitude of, ĎHi, Iím Frank White.í He was a pure Arkansawyer, and he will surely be missed." ††††Whiteís survivors include his wife and three children from a previous marriage, Rebecca, Kyle and Elizabeth. As of late Wednesday, funeral arrangements had not been made. ††††Pryor was scheduled to interview White on June 10 as part of an ongoing Arkansas Education Television Network series on Arkansasí former governors. ††††"I donít guess Frank held any grudges," Pryor said, "and that said a lot about him as a person and his character." Information for this story was provided by Cynthia Howell and Christopher Spencer of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Former Gov. Frank White, elected in 1980, was a businessman, stockbroker and banker who also served as state bank commissioner and head of the Arkansas Industrial Development Corp.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Former Arkansas Govs. (from left) Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, Jim Guy Tucker, Bill Clinton, Frank White and Sid McMath gather at a reunion of Arkansas governors on July 23, 2002.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/PHYLLIS BRANDON Jerry Maulden (left), former head of Entergy Corp.; Bill Bowen, a former banker and lawyer (standing); and former Arkansas Gov. Frank White talk during a luncheon at First Commercial Bankís national advisory board in October 1995.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/PHYLLIS BRANDON Frank White and his wife, Gay, admire a plaque presented to them when Arkansas Easter Seals named him Arkansan of the Year. The plaque was made by children at Easter Seals.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Then-Gov. Frank White (center) tours the storm devastation on the chicken farm of Shelby Cunningham (watching from the rear) after bad weather hit it.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Former Gov. Frank White (center) laughs with Gov. Mike Huckabee (left) and former Gov. Sid McMath after a ribbon cutting for the grand reopening of the Old State House Museum in this June 12, 1999, file photo.