Gov. Mark Wells White Jr. was born on March 17, 1940 in Henderson, TX to Sarah Elizabeth Wells White and Mark Wells White, Sr. He passed away Aug. 5. White served served Texas as secretary of state, attorney general and as a governor who transformed education in Texas.
White served as governor from 1983 to 1987, following his surprising victory over incumbent Republican William Clements. Mark committed himself to the transformation of the Texas political landscape. During his term of office, he appointed more members of minority groups to high positions in government than had been appointed by all of his predecessors combined, including 500 appointments of women to offices. From the instant of his swearing-in, he made inclusiveness a Texas reality by walking from his inauguration ceremonies to his new home at the nearby Governor's Mansion and ceremoniously cutting the chains that barred public entry to the mansion. Over the balance of his life, Gov. White's commitment to an inclusive and dynamic Texas never waned.
Gov. White was the first of the post-World War II generation to hold the position of governor in Texas. He brought to the Governor's Mansion a young family, a beautiful and gracious wife, three energetic children and a sense of revitalization and new promise. Nowhere was this effect more transformative than in the field of education. At the time he took office, standard aptitude tests for Texas school children had been declining for 10 years. By any measure, educational performance in the Lone Star State ranked at, or near, the bottom among the states. In his view, generations of Texas youth were being denied an opportunity to participate in the economic and technological march of progress occurring elsewhere in the nation.
The son of a schoolteacher, Mark was determined to open an antiquated and underfunded public education system to new ideas. As a first order of business, he appointed an independent commission with the specific charge of identifying opportunities that could be turned into law and action. In his words, "Our goal must be to build the best educational system that the mind of man can devise – from first grade through graduate school."
Influential Texans, both in and out of government, Democrat and Republican, were brought together to form a ramming rod for change. With the help of committed colleagues, such as Lt. Gov. William Hobby and a resolved legislative body, House Bill 72 became law. There was little about public education that House Bill 72 did not change. Teacher salaries increased by an average $5,000 per teacher. Class sizes were reduced and, in many ways, educational priorities shifted from where the money was to where the students were. Poor school districts received new hope. All school districts were given new purpose.
The effect was immediate and has proven to be enduring. Standard test scores moved upwards. Texas teachers, who had historically stood at the bottom of the states in terms of compensation, advanced above the national average. New initiatives and policies encompassing everything from pre-schooling to curriculum were brought under the umbrella of change. But within the winds of progress, a storm formed.
The new education law required teacher testing, ongoing measurement of student performance, and an emotionally burdensome requirement which came to be known as "no pass - no play." It seemed to many that a gauntlet had been thrown down on every high school football field in Texas commanding that "you can't play on this field unless you first succeed in the classroom." The reaction was swift. In many places, including rural counties that contributed to his success as a candidate, the governor became a pariah. School teachers, who previously supported him in his race for governor, rallied against what they considered to be onerous testing requirements. Suits against the law were filed in the courts. School boards hesitated to implement its provisions. But in the end, the law held, as it continues to hold today, not just in Texas but in states across the nation that have emulated many of its ground-breaking initiatives.
Against this backdrop of change, Texas experienced a sharp drop in state revenues as a consequence of falling oil prices. Rather than abandon education reforms and economic development initiatives, Mark elected to take a new direction in the financing of state expenses. He boldly proposed tax increases totaling $4.6 billion, asking the legislature to pass the measure and "blame it on me". They did both. Gov. White did not win reelection in a second contest with Clements in 1986. Generations have passed since Mark occupied the governor's office, but the benefit of his stewardship lingers. Austin continues to benefit from his recruitment of high tech companies, which launched the city's subsequent development into a center for technology. The need for protective services for children, first championed by Linda Gale and Mark, remains a Texas priority. The great universities of Texas continue to honor the importance of research so emphasized by him. Texans travel safer following his seat belt law and advice that "a click of the seatbelt is your best insurance." He modernized the Texas highway system from a "farm to market network" to a super-paved grid supporting economic growth. And who can forget the anti-litter campaign – "Don't Mess with Texas" – that he initiated; it remains a battle cry today.
Like Texas, Gov. White changed. As governor, he upheld the death penalty but over the last several years, he lost his belief in the equity and benefit of capital punishment. One of the last uses he made of his legal talents was in defense of people who had been found guilty of capital offenses in which the verdict and the facts did not appear to coincide.
Early in his career, he served Texas as an assistant attorney general. Later, he was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Dolph Briscoe, and in 1977 was elected the youngest-ever president of the National Association of the Secretaries of State. In 1978, the 37-year-old won a heated primary election for Texas Attorney General and went on to defeat Republican James Baker in the general election. During his term as attorney general, Mark gave new priority to consumer issues, particularly those concerning utility rates, a cause he again addressed forcefully as governor.
He was elected chairman of the Southern Conference of Attorneys General in 1981. He once described his philosophy of government as "basic and uncomplicated. It asks two questions before any others: Is it right? Is it fair?"
In keeping with the educational traditions of his family, he received a public education and graduated from Lamar High School in Houston. He received a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Baylor University in 1962 and juris doctor degree, also from Baylor, in 1965. He remained an active participant in the affairs of Baylor University until his death. Many of the friends made at Baylor during his student years continued to be his closest friends.
He made attempts to regain public office, but the magic of the 1980s had moved on to bless others. He returned to the practice of law at Reynolds, White, Allen & Cook. A few years later, he left to put his entrepreneurial talents to the test with varying degrees of success. He founded Geovox Security to sell the Heartbeat Detector, a product still in use protecting the borders of England, France, Spain and China by detecting people hiding in fully-loaded tractor-trailers.
In truth, he never stopped being a public servant. It was his calling. He devoted himself to charities and worthwhile causes. It delighted him that the Mark White Elementary School in Houston carries his name. He took every opportunity to speak out for the important role that MD Anderson, UTHealth, and Baylor College of Medicine play in leading the healthcare of Texas. He championed the importance of Texas history, including protecting the aging USS Texas battleship. No man or women in the last 40 years has run for major office in Texas as a Democrat without first receiving the advice of Gov. White. Even some Republicans were known to call.
Ten years ago, Gov. White was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. He battled it and suffered the indignity and pain that befalls all cancer victims. In the end, he kept the cancer at bay. He died comfortably, without warning from an unrelated cause. His abiding Christian faith will take him to his next great adventure. He was, after all, a Baptist and a Baylor man.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Linda Gale Thompson White. He liked to call her "LG." Together they formed a loving partnership committed to family, charity, their many friends and the State of Texas. His friends agree Linda Gale was the foundation behind every great moment of his life. He is also survived by sons Mark III and Andrew, and daughter Elizabeth Marie Russell; daughters-in-law Melanie and Stacey; son-in law Seth Russell (who Mark loved as much as his own sons); grandchildren Charles Luke White, Zachary Wells White, George William White, Emma Claire White, Robert Thompson White, Mark Wells White IV, Catherine Marie Russell, Houston Wells Russell and Christopher Pierce Russell. He loved taking his grandchildren on their eight birthday to Washington, D.C. to visit our country's seat of government and to instill in them his belief in public service. He also is survived by a sister, Betty Gerlach.
Thomas "Tom" Mulford Diamond passed away July 8, 2017. Diamond was born in Long Beach California March 28, 1923 to Violet and Thomas Diamond. He graduated from Dorsey High in West Los Angeles in 1942.
He enlisted in the United States Army at 19 and saw combat in the Pacific Theater. He chose to join the Army because he believed so deeply in America and its Government. After fighting in World War II he returned to California and attended Stanford University where he graduated with a degree in engineering. At Stanford he met his wife Carolyn whom he married on New Years Day 1949. Diamond remained enlisted in the active reserves and was called to duty during the Korean War. He was stationed at Fort Bliss and assigned to the guided missile program.
Following the Korean War Tom attended Baylor Law School and graduated with many honors and his juris doctor degree in 1957. He returned to El Paso and so began his long career of service. He first worked as an engineer with the Texas State Highway Department, and next as an assistant to County Judge Woodrow Bean working on projects including the construction of Transmountain Road. He transitioned into the private practice of law and throughout his career was active in the Democratic Party forming relationships with both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Diamond was a brilliant legal mind and associated with some of the best lawyers in the State of Texas with whom he remained lifelong friends. He was often called upon to meticulously handle the most difficult legal situations, which he then resolved with tact and trust.
He was a charismatic peacemaker who utilized his gift to bring people together for good. He once told a lifelong friend and colleague "war is the failure of politics." He believed that those skilled at politics and the art of negotiation are best able to prevent atrocities. He was a tireless advocate for Native American civil rights. Perhaps he is best known for his efforts to obtain federal recognition and trust status for the Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. Diamond's professional accomplishments are many and in retirement this amazing storyteller wrote two novels, Rimfire and Apache Tears and an autobiography Moon Spell. He passionately built the Beaverhead Lodge Ranch west of Winston, New Mexico in the southwest Gila Mountains. He and his son operated the working cattle ranch together, which became his haven in the midst of his hectic career. He also was a loving and supportive family man, and he greeted each day with an exuberant smile.
He leaves behind his wife Carolyn Diamond; son Jack Diamond (spouse Kaye Diamond); grandchildren Renee Diamond (spouse Brendan Rogillio), John Diamond, and Cammy Wade (spouse Chris Wade); great-grandchildren Violet Rogillio, Finnegan Rogillio, Cayden Diamond, Reece Diamond, Graham Wade, and Davis Wade; as well as his step-grandchildren Raymie Russell, and Riley Dayberry (spouse Whitney Dayberry); and their children Kyler Russell, Bryce Russell, and Crocket Dayberry; and extended family in California with whom he remained close. He was preceded in death by his parents Violet and Thomas Diamond, and his brother Jack Diamond.
Steve L. Hurt passed away July 3, 2017, in San Antonio, Texas. He was born July 20, 1934, in Paris, Texas to Reagan and Mattie Lou Dickson Hurt. The family moved to Clarksville, Texas, where he graduated from high school in 1951. He attended Paris Junior College, Baylor University, and Baylor Law School, graduating in 1957. He married Betty Allen in Bogata, Texas Dec. 18, 1954.
Hurt practiced law in Lubbock, Texas until 1960 when he relocated to Plainview, where he maintained an active law practice until 2008. He was a long-time member and elder of First Presbyterian Church, Plainview Lions Club, and Plainview/Hale County Historical Society. He participated in democratic party politics from the precinct level to the county level.
He retired to San Antonio in 2008 and enjoyed new friendships at The Towers. He was a member of Northwood Presbyterian Church.
He was predeceased by his parents and two brothers, Reagan Hurt Jr. and Jimmy Hurt. He is survived by his wife of 62 years; son, David Hurt and daughter-in-law Sheilah; daughter Margaret Anderson and son-in-law Michael; and son, Reagan Hurt; also a sister, Lou Ann Madison; and nine nieces and nephews.
William Ralph "Bill" McKinney Jr. passed away, after a short illness, surrounded by family and friends at his home in Amarillo, Texas. McKinney was born Feb. 1, 1946 in Houston. His family moved to Pampa, Texas in 1948, where he grew up with his younger brother Charles and his parents, Theresa and Ralph McKinney. He graduated from Pampa High School in 1964.
From an early age he was a fan of his parents' alma mater, Baylor University, so it was no surprise when he graduated with his Bachelor of Arts from Baylor in 1968. Shortly after graduating, he married the love of his life, Marian Carol Watkins from Quitman, Texas. The couple resided in Waco while he attended Baylor Law School; and after graduating with his law degree, they moved to Corpus Christi.
McKinney worked for the SBA in Corpus Christi, and this path took the couple far from Texas to Pennsylvania; however, they quickly returned home when they became expectant parents for the first time. Their journey home brought them to Amarillo, Texas in 1973.
For 49 years he served his family, his church, and his community. His law career in Amarillo began with his service as the assistant city attorney in 1973. He also served as an assistant district attorney in Randall County until 1974. From 1975 to 1977, he was an associate with Robinson & Fotheringham; and from 1977 to 1980, he was a partner with Priolo &McKinney. In 1980, he embarked upon private practice until the spring of 2017.
While practicing law, he was a member of many professional organizations including the Amarillo Area Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He was a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and past president of the Panhandle Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
McKinney was a successful Amarillo attorney; but his friends, family and community knew him to be a very successful Amarillo advocate, volunteer and leader. An avid supporter of public education, he served as president of Austin Middle School's Excellence Council and as a member of the Tascosa Excellence Council. He was a member of the AISD Middle School Committee. He served as president of the Tascosa Lions Club and as a member of the High Plains Epilepsy Board, Southwest Rotary Club and Advocacy, Inc. His passion was found in service with Masonic Lodge #731, Scottish Rite of El Paso, and the Amarillo Shrine Khiva Temple where he was a past president of his Khiva Patrol Unit. More recently, he was serving on the board of directors of the Herring Bank. In 2016, he answered the call to serve as an elder in his home church, First Presbyterian Church. He listened to his heart and did his very best to serve well in his Father's name.
He was many things: son, brother, Baylor Bear, attorney, Shriner, elder, life of the party, scratch golfer (maybe) - but his proudest accomplishment was his role as a family man. His wife, three children and six grandchildren were the loves of his life. Their successes were his successes, their challenges were his challenges, and their joys were his joys. His dedication to them set an example for others to strive toward.
McKinney was preceded in death by his father and mother, Ralph and Theresa McKinney. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Carol; his children, William Ralph McKinney III (Trey) of Plano, Alicia Marie McKinney of Grapevine, and Christiana Victoria Harris of Denton; and his brother and wife, Charles and Patti McKinney of Denton. He also leaves behind his six adored grandchildren: Katie McKinney, Anna Atkinson, Arielle Harris, Jameson McKinney, Marian Harris, and Nora Harris and many beloved nieces, nephews and friends.
David Allen Leon, JD '85, passed away August 3, 2017. Allen was born Sept. 4, 1960 in Dallas, Texas. He graduated from Bryan Adams High School in 1978 and went to Austin College for his undergraduate degree. He then attended Baylor Law School, where he earned his juris doctor degree. After completing law school, he worked as an attorney in Lufkin, Texas. He was very passionate about his work, and loved to give as much as he could to charities, museums, and other organizations. He continued his work as an attorney in Lufkin until 2011, when he moved to Duncanville to be closer to family. He will always be remembered for his fervent passion of wine, good food, sports, and his ability to tell you your weather forecast for the coming week.
He is survived by his Mother Elsie Allen of Ridge Farm, Illinois; his Brother Mark Allen (55) of Duncanville, TX; his Niece Shelby Allen (17); and his two Nephews Christian Allen (19), and Mark Allen Jr (27).
Gwen Gist, passed away Aug. 12, 2017, suddenly at home in Brenham, Texas. She was born Feb. 8, 1955, in Carlsbad, New Mexico to Loyd and Shirley Jackson.
Gwen was a bright and head-strong child who early on showed a penchant for rules and law. She was passionate and generous. She had a chronic diagnosis that was challenging but she managed it valiantly. She lived life fully and always seemed to have a sense that she was living on borrowed time. While working and raising her only daughter, Kerri, she commuted 90 miles to obtain her first bachelor degree in accounting from Eastern New Mexico State University. She passed the CPA exam on first attempt and worked as a CPA in Carlsbad.
She had always wanted to become an attorney. In 2002, she uprooted her life and went to Baylor Law School, graduating with honors in 2004 with a juris doctor degree. She passed the bar exam on first attempt also. She began her law career with Marek and Francis Law in Carlsbad, New Mexico. She took an opportunity moving to Hobbs, New Mexico where she was city attorney for Hobbs before moving to a position as county attorney for Lea County New Mexico. Her career took her to become an assistant district attorney for Fifth Judicial District with office in Hobbs, NM.
Recently, she decided to relocate and refocus her life into an area of law she always wanted to practice; wills, trusts, estates, and helping people get access to legal representation. Her firm, Gist Law, PLLC, was growing and she was working hard at it right up to her final day on earth. She was always happy she went to law school without letting age or disease stop her. She loved what she was doing and she was very good at it. She was loved by many people and leaves a large and loving family.
She was blessed to have the love and companionship of a man, Mike Stanley, who was her soulmate for 20 years. She leaves a daughter, Kerri Lynn Gist, of Carlsbad, NM, two grandsons both from Carlsbad, NM; Justin Holub (Joy) and Brandon Holub, and one great grandson, Justin Cole Holub of Carlsbad, NM. She was predeceased by her father Loyd Jackson, of Carlsbad, NM. She leaves her mother, Shirley Jackson, of Carlsbad, NM, three sisters; Deborah Edington (Bob) of Brenham, Texas; Starla Porterfield (Tom) of Louisville, Kentucky; and Cherene Patty (Kim) of Edmond, Oklahoma, and one Brother, John Jackson (Kim), of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She leaves her beloved dog, Outlaw Josie Wales. Finally she left many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, all of whom she adored.
She loved theater, travel, crochet, antiques, family, her dog, puzzles, board games, reading, tradition, and the law. She made it a point to experience everything she saw that she wanted to do, and to always challenge herself to reach for excellence. She spent her life force fully all the time. Above all she loved God. She was a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ.