Mark White
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Mark White
Mark White
Governor Mark White.jpg
43rd Governor of Texas

January 18, 1983 - January 20, 1987
Lieutenant William P. Hobby Jr.
Bill Clements
Bill Clements
46th Attorney General of Texas

January 19, 1979 - January 18, 1983
Governor Bill Clements
John Hill
Jim Mattox
74th Secretary of State of Texas

January 19, 1973 - October 27, 1977
Governor Dolph Briscoe
V. Larry Teaver Jr.
George Strake Jr.
Personal details
Born Mark Wells White Jr.
(1940-03-17)March 17, 1940
Henderson, Texas, U.S.
Died August 5, 2017(2017-08-05) (aged 77)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Resting place Texas State Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Linda Thompson (m. 1966; his death 2017)
Children 3
Education Baylor University (BA, JD)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Unit Texas Army National Guard
 o 36th Infantry Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Mark Wells White Jr. (March 17, 1940 - August 5, 2017) was an American politician and lawyer, who served as the 43rd Governor of Texas from 1983 to 1987. He also held office as Secretary of State of Texas (1973-77), and as Texas Attorney General (1979-83).

White was elected governor in the 1982 gubernatorial election, defeating the incumbent Bill Clements.[1] A member of the Democratic Party, White sought to improve education, transportation, water resources, law enforcement, and taxes to lure new industry to Texas. He appointed the first Hispanic woman to serve as judge of a district court in Texas.[2] In the 1986 gubernatorial election, White lost to former Republican Governor Clements, 52.7% to 46.0%.[3]

Early life

White was born in Henderson, in Rusk County, Texas, to Mark Wells White Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth White.[4]

In Houston he attended Woodrow Wilson Elementary School,[5]Lanier Junior High School and Lamar High School.[6][7]

White attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he was a member of the Tryon Coterie Club (now the Texas Lambda Chapter of Phi Delta Theta).[8] He subsequently graduated from Baylor Law School in 1965.[8]


White practiced law in a private practice in Houston (Harris County).

Early roles in government

White served as the state's assistant attorney general.[9] In 1973, White was appointed as Texas secretary of state under Governor Dolph Briscoe and also served in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard.[8]

White served as secretary of state until 1977, when he resigned to run for state attorney general, where he served until 1983.[10] In the 1978 general election, White defeated the Republican choice, James A. Baker, III, a Houston lawyer, businessman, and power broker affiliated with the Bush family of Houston.[11] White polled 1,249,846 votes and (55.13 percent) to Baker's 999,431 votes and (44.08 percent).[11]

As the state's chief enforcement officer, he co-chaired the Federal-State Enforcement Coordinating Committee and was a member of the Governor's Organized Crime Prevention Council.[10] On the national level, he was elected Chairman of the Southern Conference of Attorneys General in May 1981.[10]

Governor (1983-87)

1982 gubernatorial election

White declined to seek a second term as state attorney general, but chose to seek the governorship in 1982 against fellow Democrat Bob Armstrong, who was the outgoing state Land Commissioner, who vacated the General Land Office following twelve years, and then the incumbent Bill Clements, Texas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction.[12] In November 1982, he defeated Clements over concerns about the governor's poor economic numbers and lack of support from minority groups.[12] White received 1,697,870 votes (53.2 percent) to Clements' 1,465,537 (45.9 percent) in a year where Texas Democrats swept all the statewide offices up for grabs; led by U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen (who won a third six-year term to the Senate) and the legendary Lieutenant Governor of Texas William P. Hobby Jr..[13]


As the state's 43rd chief executive from January 18, 1983, to January 20, 1987, White worked to "preserve and enhance... resources so that Texas would not fall back, but go forward as a state of the future".[4] His main concerns were the economy and education. By focusing on Texas' resources, White was able to work on many problems facing the state in the early 1980s. The Texas economy during the early and mid-1980s was volatile. The price of oil declined and pushed Texas into a recession. This led Governor White to "lay the groundwork for a more diversified economy--one less reliant upon the...swings of a single industry".[10]

Governor White in Austin, 1983

White served as governor during Texas' sesquicentennial in 1986 and oversaw a number of the celebrations concerning that anniversary.[14]

Among White's appointments was Elma Salinas Ender as the first Hispanic woman to serve as judge of a district court in Texas.[2] From 1983 until her retirement in 2012, Ender was judge of the 341st Judicial District, based in Laredo.[15]

When he took office, Texas was ranked as one of the lowest performing states for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) also in teachers' salaries.[16] After taking office, White immediately appointed a committee on Public Education, called a special session of the legislature in 1984, and worked with lawmakers to pass the Educational Opportunity Act (EOA).[17]

By focusing on education, White was able to make Texas a "state of the future" with regard to its most important resource, its children.[16] Through his diligent work as Governor of Texas, many of the problems of the present and future were alleviated.[9]

Among White's advisors as governor were the Dallas industrialist H. Ross Perot and former State Senator Max Sherman, who left a brief stint in the administration to become dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin.[14]

1986 gubernatorial election

In the 1986 gubernatorial election, White lost to former Republican Governor Clements, 52.7% to 46.0%.[3] Some believe that the wildly unpopular "no-pass, no-play" policies of the White administration, which prohibited any high school student athletes from participating in varsity sports if they were failing any single element of their overall class load, sealed the doom of a second term.[16] Clements polled 1,813,779 votes (52.7%) to White's 1,584,515 votes (46.1%) in the November 1986 general election and left office on January 20, 1987.[3]


Following his departure from office, White worked for the law firm Keck, Mahin & Cate. White attempted to run for governor again in 1990, but he was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ann Richards, who then defeated Jim Mattox in a runoff election and the Republican Clayton W. Williams, Jr., in the general election.[18] During the 1990 campaign, a campaign commercial depicted White "walking down a hallway displaying larger-than-life photos of the men put to death during his administration in 1983-1986. 'Only a governor can make executions happen,' White declared as ominous music played in the background. 'I did, and I will.'"[19]

White practiced law and was chairman of the board of the Houston Independent School District Foundation, a non-profit organization which supports the public schools. White endorsed Houston City Council candidate Jolanda Jones in the 2003 and 2007 city elections. The latter endorsement helped lead to Jones winning an at-large seat on the council. He also endorsed then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) in the Texas primaries for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, which Obama went on to win the presidency.

In 2011, White publicly opposed Texas A&M's potential departure from the Big 12 conference to join the Southeastern Conference (SEC).[20]


White died at his home in Houston after waking and feeling discomfort in his chest on August 5, 2017, at the age of 77.[21] The cause of death was a heart attack.[22] He was survived by his wife Linda Gale and his three children.[22] At the time of his death, White had been suffering from kidney cancer for many years.[12]

At his funeral the officiant was Pastor Homer Edwin Young and among the attendees who were there also included White's fellow Governors: former U.S. President George W. Bush, United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and current Governor Greg Abbott. Mourners included former Lieutenant Governor of Texas William P. Hobby Jr., current Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner, former U.S. Congressman Craig Washington among countless others.

On August 10, 2017, White's remains lay in state for three hours in the Texas State Capitol. Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, paid tribute to her friend White, whom she said "may have left public office, but he never left public service. ... He welcomed the big tent of folks. He was not a divider; he was a unifier."[23]

He is interred at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, where a private graveside ceremony was held.[10] At the time of his death, he was the last living Democrat to have served as Governor of his state.[24]


Mark White Elementary School, a Houston Independent School District elementary school, opened in August 2016.[25]


(1) White's Inauguration as the 43rd Governor from January 18, 1983 [1]

(2) Texas Democratic Gubernatorial Primary debate on February 7, 1990, from KUHT-TV PBS 8 Houston [2]

(3) Texas Democratic Gubernatorial Primary debate on March 2, 1990, from KERA-TV Dallas-Fort Worth [3]

(4) Interview with C-SPAN on February 24, 1986 [4]

(5) Interview with C-SPAN on the Texas Economy from August 4, 1985 [5]

(6) White's Farewell Address to Joint Session of the Texas Legislature from January 14, 1987 [6]

(7) Governor White addressing the Democratic National Convention at the George Moscone Center in San Francisco, California on July 22, 1984 [7]


  1. ^ Texas Almanac
  2. ^ a b "Judge Salinas Ender announces her retirement", June 29, 2011". Retrieved 2013. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "Politico - Election Results". The Politico. Retrieved 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Former Democratic Texas Governor Mark White Dies at 77". USA Today. August 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  5. ^ Meeks, Flori (May 6, 2014). "Switch to Montessori proved pivotal for Wilson school". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017. 
  6. ^ White, Mark; Goldstein, David (November 23, 2009), "Governor Mark White Oral History", Houston Oral History Project, Houston Library, retrieved 2017, Then we went to junior high school at Sidney Lanier and then on to Lamar High School. 
  7. ^ "Distinguished HISD Alumni." Houston Independent School District. Retrieved on March 11, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Candidate - Mark White". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "Former Democratic Texas Gov. Mark White Dies at 77". NBC News. August 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Mark Wells White". Texas State Cemetery. Retrieved 2017. 
  11. ^ a b "Former Texas Governor Mark White Dead at 77". Texas Tribune. August 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c "Former Democratic Texas Gov. Mark White Dies at 77". The New York Times. August 6, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  13. ^ "Rematch for Governor's Job : White, Clements Headed for Victory in Texas Races". The Los Angeles Times. May 4, 1986. Retrieved 2017. 
  14. ^ a b "Former Texas Gov. Mark White Dies at 77". Dallas News. August 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  15. ^ Godines Fitzgerald, Valerie (December 31, 2012). "Historic Path: Judge Ender retires from post". Laredo Morning Times. pp. 1, 14A. 
  16. ^ a b c "Former Texas Governor Mark White, education reformer, dies at 77". August 6, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  17. ^ "Education Governor Mark White Dies at 77". Texas Monthly. August 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  18. ^ "Parties in Texas Girding For 1990 Election Fights". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017. 
  19. ^ Gottschalk, Marie (March 16, 2011). "Is Death Different?". The New Republic. 
  20. ^ "College Confidential: Mark White, former Tx governor, says A&M would be making a "permanent mistake" to leave Big 12". Star-Telegram. August 17, 2011. Retrieved 2013. 
  21. ^ "Former Democratic Texas Governor Mark White Dies at 77". The Washington Post. August 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  22. ^ a b "Former Texas Gov. Mark White dead at 77". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017. 
  23. ^ Paul Cobler, "Texas turns out to honor former Gov. Mark White: Friends, family admirers line up to pay respects," San Antonio Express-News, August 11, 2017, pp, A3, A7.
  24. ^ "Former Texas Governor Mark White dies at 77". Fox News. August 6, 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  25. ^ Baird, Annette (June 10, 2014). "Planned HISD elementary to relieve crowding". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2014. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
V. Larry Teaver Jr.
Secretary of State of Texas
January 19, 1973-October 22, 1977
Succeeded by
George Strake Jr.
Preceded by
Bill Clements
Governor of Texas
January 18, 1983-January 20, 1987
Succeeded by
Bill Clements
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Hill
Attorney General of Texas
January 19, 1979-January 18, 1983
Succeeded by
Jim Mattox
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Hill
Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas
1982, 1986
Succeeded by
Ann Richards

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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