Frank D. White

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Frank D. White
White in 1995
41st Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 19, 1981 – January 11, 1983
Lieutenant Winston Bryant
Preceded by Bill Clinton
Succeeded by Bill Clinton
Personal details
Born Durward Frank Kyle Jr.
(1933-06-04)June 4, 1933
Texarkana, Texas
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Resting place Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock
Political party Democratic (?–1980)
Republican (1980–death)
Spouse(s) (1) Mary Blue Hollenberg White[1]
(2) Gay Daniels White[1]
Children 3[1]
Profession Banker, stockbroker
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1956-1961
Rank US military captain's rank.gif Captain

Frank Durward White (June 4, 1933 – May 21, 2003) was the 41st Governor of the U.S. state of Arkansas. He served a single two-year term from 1981 to 1983. He is one of two people to have defeated Bill Clinton in an election, the other being former U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison, Arkansas.

Early years, family, education

White was born on June 4, 1933[1] in Texarkana in Bowie County, Texas, as Durward Frank Kyle, Jr.[2] His father, Durward Frank Kyle, died when White was seven, and White's mother, the former Ida Bottoms Clark, married Loftin E. White of Highland Park, Texas.[2] He took his stepfather's name and became "Frank Durward White".[2] After the death of the stepfather in 1950, the Whites returned to Texarkana.[2] White enrolled in the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico but was subsequently recommended to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, by then U.S. Senator John L. McClellan of Arkansas. He graduated from the academy with a bachelor of science degree in engineering in 1956. He also excelled in the study of Spanish. Though he was a Naval Academy graduate, White became a pilot in the United States Air Force.[2] White was discharged from the Air Force in 1961 with the rank of Captain.[2]

From his first marriage to Mary Blue Hollenberg, a member of a prominent Little Rock family, White had three children. In 1975, two years after his divorce, White married Gay Daniels, who survived him. White and Daniels acquired custody of the children from his first marriage, but they had no children together.

White was baptized as a youth in the Christian faith at Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana (Miller County, Arkansas), later pastored by future Republican Governor Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee.[2] He and Gay attended the First United Methodist Church in downtown Little Rock for a short time. They left the Methodist congregation and, with other couples, established the fundamentalist Fellowship Bible Church.[2]

Business success

In 1961, having left the Air Force, White became an account executive for Merrill Lynch. He held that position until 1973, when he joined banker Bill Bowen in the management of Commercial National Bank in Little Rock. Bowen was a staunch Democrat who later opposed White politically though the two maintained a cordial business relationship.[2] During this time, White would serve as the first Director of the Little Rock Port Authority from 1972 to 1973.

White was appointed by Democratic Governor David Hampton Pryor to head the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.[2] The industrial panel was originally created by Democratic Governor Orval Eugene Faubus and first directed by Winthrop Rockefeller, who in 1966 used his experience in the AIDC to get elected as Arkansas' first Republican governor since 1874. White left the AIDC after two years and became president of Capital Savings and Loan Association in Little Rock.[2] Democrats later derided White's tenure at AIDC by pointing out that the number of industries which came to the state was much reduced from earlier and later years, a situation that Republicans attributed to a national recession.

Campaign 1980

Early in 1980, White switched from Democrat to Republican affiliation to run for governor.[2] First, he defeated former State Representative Marshall Chrisman, a businessman from Ozark, the seat of Franklin County, for the gubernatorial nomination. In a low-turnout open primary, White polled 5,867 votes (71.8 percent) to Chrisman's 2,310 (28.2 percent). Clinton also faced a stronger-than-expected challenger in his primary from the turkey farmer Monroe Schwarzlose of Kingsland in Cleveland County in south Arkansas.[2] Schwarzlose's 31 percent of the primary vote foreshadowed that Clinton could be in trouble for the upcoming general election.[2]

White hired Paula Unruh of Tulsa to manage the campaign. She decided to focus upon (1) Clinton's unpopular increase in the cost of automobile registration tags and by (2) the Carter administration's sending thousands of Cuban refugees, some unruly, to a detention camp at Fort Chaffee, outside Fort Smith in Sebastian County in western Arkansas.[2] Her decision paid big dividends, as White unseated Clinton. White received 435,684 votes (51.9 percent) to Clinton's 403,242 (48.1 percent).[2] White won fifty-one of the state's seventy-five counties. A. Lynn Lowe of Texarkana, Clinton's Republican opponent in 1978, by contrast, had won only six counties.

White was the second Republican ever elected governor in Arkansas since reconstruction.[1]

Two years as governor

White appointed numerous Arkansas Republicans to state positions. Former gubernatorial nominee Ken Coon was named to head the Arkansas Employment Security Division. Another former gubernatorial candidate, Len E. Blaylock of Perry County was named appointments secretary. Blaylock, who had a reputation as an extremely competent administrator, screened applicants for state positions. Former State Representative Preston Bynum of Siloam Springs in usually Republican Benton County in northwestern Arkansas, became White's chief aide. Harold L. Gwatney, an automobile dealer in Jacksonville, was named to the coveted position of adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard. White also depended on the advice of his legislative counsel, State Representative Carolyn Pollan of Fort Smith. New to the legislature with the White administration was Judy Petty of Little Rock, who had waged a nationally watched campaign against former U.S. Representative Wilbur D. Mills in 1974.

White was far more conservative than Rockefeller. He signed a law which would have required the teaching of creationism in Arkansas public schools, along with the Theory of Evolution.[1][2] The law was subsequently overturned in 1982 in the court case McLean v. Arkansas.[1][2] White rejected the court's claim that "creation science" involves the "teaching of religion in the public school system. I think it is a theory, just like evolution is, and if we're going to have true educational freedom, then I think we deserve equal treatment."

He also opposed the proposed Equal Rights Amendment and refused to include the issue in a call for a special legislative session in November 1981 to consider the measure. He declined to meet with ERA proponent and former Rockefeller staffer Leona Troxell of Rose Bud in White County, the longtime Arkansas GOP national committeewoman, who wanted to lobby White on the issue.

White also created a controversy within his own party in 1981, when he called Faubus out of retirement to head the scandal-plagued Arkansas Veterans Affairs Department. The selection was recommended by Blaylock and endorsed by U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas' 3rd congressional district and former State Representative Danny L. Patrick of Madison County. Other Republicans, such as Mrs. Troxell, questioned if there was a return to "machine" politics as practiced in the Faubus administration. Even state party Chairman Harlan "Bo" Holleman of Wynne in Cross County in eastern Arkansas, had reservations about the selection. Blaylock, however, explained that Faubus was uniquely qualified to head the veterans department and quickly rectified problems in the agency.

White took up the cause of Arkansas truckers and haulers and obtained higher weight limits to the economic benefit of truckers, much to the consternation of highway safety advocates.

White also clashed with U.S. Representative Edwin Bethune over the reappointment of the Little Rock-based federal Marshal Charles H. Gray, a cousin of U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers. White wanted to return Blaylock to the marshal's post that he had held during the Ford administration, but Bethune wanted to retain Gray on the grounds that the Democrat was "one of the top marshals in the country." Bethune won the day, and the Reagan administration reappointed Gray. Bethune still campaigned actively for White in 1982 and said that the governor's election was "the best thing that ever happened to this state."

David Vandergriff, a conservative attorney from Fort Smith, said that the rightist faction gained full control of the Arkansas GOP in 1981: "The Reagan Republicans didn't run off the Rockefeller Republicans, but they left for whatever reasons ... A lot of the Rockefeller Republicans disappeared when he left office, and those that remained have continued to fall by the wayside." In 1982, for instance, Bob Nash, the assistant director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, not only opposed White but worked frantically for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill Clinton.

Re-election loss and later career

White was unable to secure a hold on the governorship. Chrisman and a third candidate, nutritionist Connie Voll of Lonoke, challenged him in the 1982 primary. Voll was the first woman to seek the GOP nomination for Governor, and the second to seek the party nomination for a statewide office, after Troxell. Clinton then defeated him in a rematch of the 1980 contest during the general election: 431,855 (54.7 percent) to 357,496 (45.3 percent). White won only nineteen counties in the 1982 rematch, which occurred in a nationally Democratic year.

After his defeat, White supported the selection of a former Rockefeller supporter, Morris S. Arnold, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, to succeed the temporary state party Chairman Bob Cohee, originally of Baxter County. Cohee had become acting chairman on the death of Holleman in March 1982 and had resigned a federal position to work all year for White's unsuccessful reelection. Arnold defeated Cohee, but the Republican State Central Committee would not disclose the secret-ballot vote. Arnold did not serve the full two-year term and was succeeded by first vice-chairman Robert "Bob" Leslie.

Arkansas gubernatorial terms became four years with the 1986 general election. In 1986, Faubus unsuccessfully challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination. White defeated former Lieutenant Governor Maurice L. Britt in the Republican primary. In the third White v. Clinton race, Clinton again easily prevailed, once again having benefited from a nationally Democratic year.[2] White's loss in this election dramatically damaged his political image, making it very unlikely that he could win the governorship again.

He returned to First Commercial Bank in Little Rock after his 1986 defeat as senior vice president[1] until his retirement from the bank in 1998. White declined to seek the Republican nomination for Governor again in 1990, opting to support Sheffield Nelson in his primary race against Representative Tommy Robinson instead of running himself. That year, Clinton won election as Governor for the fifth time; two years later he would become President of the United States. Without sufficient support and resources to run for elected office again, White left elective politics, but remained active in Republican affairs.

State banking commissioner and death

From 1998 to 2003, White served as Arkansas Banking Commissioner, an appointment from Governor Mike Huckabee.[2] Although he was appointed on what was supposed to be a temporary basis, he remained in the post until shortly before his death from a heart attack in 2003, about two weeks before his seventieth birthday. White's time in the Banking Department was noted by his practice of visiting all Arkansas' state-chartered banks at least once a year.[3]

White died of a heart attack in Little Rock on May 21, 2003, two weeks before his 70th birthday, and is interred there in the historic Mount Holly Cemetery.[2][4]

The State Republican Party began hosting the "'Hi, I'm Frank White' Awards Dinner" in 2006 to honor persons who have done the most to build the Arkansas GOP.

See also


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External links

  • Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture entry: Frank White

Further reading

  • Arkansas Gazette, August 5, November 13, 22, 1981; October 29, December 5, 1982
  • Who's Who in the South and Southwest, 18th edition (1982–1983), p. 803
  • Arkansas Election Statistics, 1980 and 1982 (Little Rock: Secretary of State)
  • Shreveport Times, January 7, 1982
  • Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Bill Clinton
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Arkansas
1980, 1982
Succeeded by
Woody Freeman
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Sheffield Nelson