Jesse L. White honors parents with library endowment

00007When Jesse L. White Jr. began thinking about establishing a memorial for his parents at the University of Mississippi, he quickly settled on the J.D. Williams Library as the natural choice.

“I’ve always considered the library to be the heart of a university,” said White, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1966. “That was certainly the case when I was at Ole Miss. I spent countless hours up in the stacks doing research or studying for exams, and it was such an important part of my time there.”

Also, White’s parents were big supporters of the university’s library, so it seemed an appropriate place to honor them, he said. The Jackson native and adjunct professor in the University of North Carolina’s School of Government has pledged $25,000 to create the Jesse Lamar and Marguerite East White Memorial Endowment.

Proceeds from the endowment can be used at the discretion of the dean of libraries, with preference given to acquiring books and digital resources in the social sciences.

“We are grateful to Jesse White for this generous gift that will help provide the materials we need to continue to recruit talented faculty members and aid research in the social sciences,” said Julia Rholes, UM library dean. “This endowment will help strengthen our programs for generations to come.”

White, who last year agreed to fund an endowment for the university’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, visited campus this spring and met with Rholes to discuss the library’s needs.

“I love her orientation toward the engagement of communities through libraries,” he said. “She came from that tradition, and she has continued on that path with the Ole Miss library.”

White’s parents were extraordinary people, he said.

“My father was born, believe it or not, in 1886, so he saw the introduction of the automobile and watched men walk on the moon. From modest circumstances, he became one of the most educated and well-read men I have ever known, even though he was not a college graduate. He was a huge influence on my intellectual development.”

White Sr. enjoyed a successful career in insurance and served almost eight years as state insurance commissioner. His wife was equally successful.

“She was born at the dawn of the 20th century and was a graduate of Hinds Community College,” White said. “She was a pioneer as a female business person and was a leader in organizations like the YWCA and the Mississippi Officials Women’s Club.

“They both loved and trusted Ole Miss. They supported my staying on campus after the Meredith integration crisis, which was my freshman year, while a lot of parents pulled their children out. It changed my life.”

While a student at UM, White earned two Taylor medals and a Marshall Scholarship, which sent him to England for two years of study at the University of Sussex. After completing a master’s degree in international relations there, he returned to UM as an instructor in political science from 1968 to 1970.

He then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn his doctorate. During that time, he served as secretary of the Mississippi Senate, and later as a policy planner in the newly created U.S. Department of Education.

From 1982 to 1990, White was executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, an economic “think tank,” and from 1993 to 2002, he served as federal co-chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission. He joined UNC as an adjunct professor in 2003 and created the university’s Office of Economic and Business Development in 2004. He is recognized as an expert on Southern politics and the region’s economic development.

“I really think both my parents would be delighted that their names will be linked to the Ole Miss library through the endowment,” White said.

To support the library, contact Angela Barlow Brown, development officer, at or 662-915-3181.