Baylor University Mourns Passing of Distinguished Alumnus Gov. Mark White

  • Gov. Mark White
    Mark W. White, B.B.A. '62, J.D. '65, who served as the 43rd Governor of Texas from 1983-1987, received the Pro Texana Medal of Service from Baylor in 2011. The award honors an individual whose contributions in furthering the mission of Baylor have made an immeasurable impact in the public or non-profit sector.
  • Gov. White with Dean Barrow
    Distinguished Baylor alumnus and former Texas Gov. Mark White, B.B.A. '62, J.D. '65, with Judge Charles W. Barrow, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice who served seven years as dean of Baylor Law School.
Aug. 5, 2017

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275
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WACO, Texas, (Aug. 5, 2017) -- Distinguished Baylor University and Baylor Law School alumnus Mark W. White, B.B.A. ’62, J.D. ’65, who served as the 43rd Governor of Texas from 1983-1987, died Saturday in Houston. He was 77.

Baylor University President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., released the following statement on behalf of Gov. White’s alma mater:

    “Baylor University extends its deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of distinguished graduate, Gov. Mark White,” Dr. Livingstone said. “As a Baylor undergraduate and law school student, Gov. White said his life was shaped by the many excellent faculty members at Baylor who inspired him to a career as a successful attorney and tireless public servant. He loved and supported his alma mater, and he loved serving the state of Texas, for which he left a lasting legacy, especially in his support of education. The deepest thoughts and prayers of our entire Baylor Family are with his wife, Linda Gale, B.B.A. ‘64, and children as they mourn the loss of a great husband, father and Texan in Gov. White.”

A graduate of Lamar High School, White earned his B.B.A. in economics from Baylor in 1962 and his law degree from Baylor Law School in 1965.

He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1984 by the Baylor Alumni Association and received the Pro Texana Medal of Service from Baylor in 2011, which honors an individual whose contributions in furthering the mission of Baylor have made an immeasurable impact in the public or non-profit sector.

White served as Texas Attorney General (1979-83), Texas Secretary of State (1973-77) and governor of Texas (1983-87). He also played an important role in preserving the Big 12 Conference in 2010. At the time of his passing, he was president of Geovox Security.

White is survived by his wife, Linda Gale Thompson White, and three children: Mark III, Andrew and Elizabeth.

On behalf of the White family, the Office of Governor Greg Abbott released funeral and memorial service details for Gov. White.

Funeral services will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, at Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway Drive in Houston. On Thursday, Aug. 10, Gov. White will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda from noon to 3 p.m. He will be laid to rest during a private family ceremony at the Texas State Cemetery.

Gov. White remained a loyal supporter of Baylor University, recalling in a Fall 2011 Baylor Magazine article the education he received at both the University and Baylor Law School:

    Before Mark White left his home in Houston to attend Baylor, his mother told him the names of dozens of people to look up when he arrived.

    “Mother was going through a list of her friends from Baylor whom she understood now had children there. Of course, I didn’t do a thing she said. I didn’t look up a soul. I was too busy having fun and studying and doing all the things a freshman does.”

    When White pledged Tri-C social club, he made a number of new friends -- and as it just so happens, every one of them had been on his mother’s list. A generation later, they had formed new lasting friendships of their own.

    “There was Allen Weed, Bob Cole, George Chandler, Dick Wood, Ray Stoker, John Bagwell, Phil Guittard, John Reid and others, and everyone of them were in Tri-C,” he says. “Imagine how, 30 years before, all their parents were close friends. I just got off the phone with Dick Wood, I talked to George Chandler yesterday, and I talk to Ray Stoker twice a day. These people are still my best friends. The friends made at Baylor stay close, and that is something to be admired and respected.”

    While at Baylor, White met and married his wife, Linda Gale Thompson White, BBA ’64. He also applied to Baylor Law School, following the path of his uncle Red Wells and cousin Bill Wells. White was excited to have been admitted.

    “I was very fortunate to have some pretty good Baylor Law advocates -- Gibson Gale, Leon Jaworski and Adrian Burke -- who signed my application for admission to Baylor Law School.”

    But he says he didn’t envision himself holding office, much less becoming the governor of Texas.

    “I was always interested in politics, but I never knew I’d end up running for anything,” he says.

    White’s memories of practice court border on the traumatic. He says Judge Frank Wilson, who was also a full-time court of civil appeals judge in Waco, started practice court every day at 7 a.m.

    “It seemed like we started before dawn,” remembers White. “Frank Wilson did not put up with anyone who was unprepared. I’ve been involved in cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas Supreme Court, [and many others], and never, never, never was I as nervous as I was every single day in practice court. Every day was almost like a near-death experience. The judge stood between you and becoming a lawyer, and the best you could hope for was that he didn’t throw you upside down and embarrass you in front of the whole class. Judge Wilson was a great teacher and helped Baylor Law earn its reputation as being the Marine Corps of law schools.

    “Every Baylor Law graduate knows where the courthouse is and knows what to do when he gets there. Getting elected attorney general and governor were both very proud days for me, but graduating from Baylor Law School was as good a day as I ever had.”

    As governor, White focused on issues such as utility rate regulation, economic development and the appointment of minorities to positions in government. But one issue in particular -- education -- will always be the most important issue for Texas, he says.

    “The first job of Texas leaders has always been to make certain that your educational programs are as good as we can possibly make them. Education is the one recurring investment that will maintain the quality of life and economic prosperity Texans enjoy. One day, we will probably run out of oil and gas, but if we have focused our attention on maintaining high quality educational institutions, our future is well secured.”

    While in office, White says he was sometimes criticized about his “overenthusiasm” for Baylor.

    “I had a big Baylor seal rug on the floor in the Texas Secretary of State office, and it was always fun to invite my Longhorn, Aggie and Texas Tech friends in for some coffee,” remembers White. “And I’m probably the only governor in Texas history to have entertained a bear in the governor’s reception room. One day I looked up and Baylor Chamber of Commerce had brought the bear down for the game with Texas. Having the Baylor bear in the governor’s reception room is one of my fondest memories.”

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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