Childhood & Early Life
Mark White was born on March 17, 1940 to Mark Wells Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth, in Henderson, Rusk County, Texas. His family moved from Henderson to Houston, shortly after his birth.
He attended several public schools and graduated from Lamar High School in 1958. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Baylor University four years later.
He then joined Baylor Law School and obtained Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in 1965. After being admitted to the State Bar of Texas, he practiced law privately and shortly afterwards, began his public service as assistant attorney general in the insurance, banking and securities division.
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He served in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard besides doing public service. In 1969, he practiced law with the firm Reynolds, Allen and Cook for four years.
In 1973, he was appointed the Secretary of State of Texas, under Governor Dolph Briscoe. He streamlined the legal operations and made the services more responsive to the public, during his tenure.
In 1977, he was elected president of the National Association of the Secretaries of State, the youngest ever to be in office. This was the association’s highest office - and White was also elected secretary and treasurer earlier.
He stood for elections for the State Attorney General and easily defeated his rival from the Republican Party. In 1979, White became the 46th Attorney General of Texas and co-chaired the Federal-State Law Enforcement Coordination Committee.
Besides being the Attorney General, he was a member of the Governor's Organized Crime Prevention Council. He was also elected the chairman of the Southern Conference of Attorney Generals in 1981, which was an appointment at national level.
White sought governorship over serving as Attorney General. Winning by a wide margin, he was appointed the 43rd Governor of Texas, in 1983, a post he held for four years.
Having relied on the oil industry for long, Texas was in turmoil when oil prices declined. The economy went into recession creating chaos in the Texas governance and making it unstable.
As governor, his main aim was to preserve the state’s resources and enhance its economy and education. He also focussed on stabilizing the volatile economy and diversifying it, so that the state relied less on one single industry.
White also worked to improve the conditions of transportation, water resources and law enforcement. He brought in some tax reforms to try and lure new industries, to shift focus from the reliance on the oil industry.
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Education was another area of importance for Mark White, since he believed that children were the resource of the future. He sought to improve performance levels in the state as well as ensure better quality of teaching by enhancing their salaries.
As governor, an important job was to oversee death sentences and executions, a job that required shrewd jurisdiction. White always reviewed each of the evidences painstakingly, to ensure that the executions were just and fair.
In the Sesquicentennial of Texas in 1986, he hosted a number of events in his capacity as governor. He commissioned the renovation of Texas State Capitol and also the restoration of the statue of the Goddess of Liberty, one of the most important landmarks of Texas.
His advisors comprised of prominent industrialists and senators. Industrialist H. Ross Perrot and State Senator Max Sherman were two such advisors to White.
Seeking a second term as governor in the 1986 general election, White lost out to his rival. According to popular opinion, one of the reasons for his downfall was his ‘No Pass, No Play’ policy in education, wherein, students who failed were barred from varsity games.
After his term as governor, White joined the law firm Keck, Mahin & Cate. He ran for the post of governor again in 1990, but was unsuccessful and was defeated by Ann Richards, a Democrat.
Currently, apart from being the president of GeoVox Company, White is also the Chairman of the Houston Independent School District Foundation. This is a non-profit organization that supports public schools in Houston.
One of the major contributions made by White as a Governor was in the field of education – he was able to raise the performance standards of Texas students in Scholastic Aptitude Tests. In 1984, he appointed a committee on public education, passed the Education Opportunity Act, and also raised teachers’ salaries to improve quality.
White played a prominent role in preserving the Big 12 Conference of 2010, along with other prominent Texans, imploring all Big 12 schools to cooperate towards positive changes. The Big 12 Conference, an athletic conference of ten colleges, competing in football games, had begun to crumble after differences broke out among members.
Personal Life & Legacy
Mark White is married to Linda Gale Thompson, whom he met as a student of Baylor University, while pursuing his BBA. They have three children, Mark III, Andrew and Elizabeth.
White was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer at the age of 67. However, he has survived the disease with support from his doctor, family, friends and faith in religion.