|Frank D. White|
|41st Governor of Arkansas|
From: January 19, 1981 – January 11, 1983
|Party||Republican (after 1980)|
Democrat (before 1980)
|Spouse(s)||Mary Blue Hollenberg White (Div. 1973)|
Gay Daniels White (m. 1975–his death)
|Service Years|| 1956–61|
Frank Durward White (June 4, 1933 – May 21, 2003) was the Republican governor of Arkansas from 1981 to 1983. He and former U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison, Arkansas, are the only two politicians ever to defeat Bill Clinton in an election.
White was a conservative and a Christian, and his policies as governor matched his beliefs. His term as governor marked a conservative realignment both in Arkansas politics and the state Republican Party.
A native of Texarkana, Texas, White was born on June 4, 1933. His given name was Durward Frank Kyle, Jr., after his father, who died when the boy was seven. His mother remarried and he then took his stepfather's last name, "White", and reversed "Durward Frank" as "Frank Durward". White had moved to Dallas with his family, but when his stepfather died in 1950, he and his mother moved back to Texarkana.
White had attended high school in Dallas, but after his stepfather died he enrolled in the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico, graduating there with a high school diploma. He attended Texas A&M for one year, and then he was appointed by Senator John McClellan of Arkansas to the United States Naval Academy. He graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science in engineering and was commissioned into the United States Air Force.
In the Air Force, White flew C-130s and he accumulated over 1,800 flight hours. In 1957, on one of his first missions, he flew a division of the 101st Airborne from Kentucky to Little Rock during the famous school integration controversy. He was honorably discharged in 1961 at the rank of Captain, married, and moved to Little Rock.
After moving to Little Rock, White was hired at Merrill-Lynch & Co., and he would advance his position. In 1973, he joined the management of Commercial National Bank. He was encouraged to do this by Bill Bowen, a prominent banker, Sunday school teacher, and good friend of White who was also a strong Democrat. In 1975, Arkansas governor David Pryor appointed White to his cabinet as director of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. Oddly, White's Republican predecessor as governor, Winthrop Rockefeller, who served from 1967 to 1971, had also been director of the industrial development commission under Rockefeller's predecessor as governor, Orval E. Faubus. White left this position in 1977 and became president of the Capital Savings and Loan Co., serving until 1980, when he ran for Arkansas governor.
White switched to the Republican Party in the 1980 election to challenge incumbent governor Bill Clinton. He defeated fellow Republican Marshall Chrisman of Ozark in Johnson County—who questioned White's Republican credentials as a newcomer to the party—with 5,867 (71.75%) to Chrisman's 2,310 (28.25%).(pg. 43)
Clinton had a weak first two years as governor. He had raised automobile license fees and had failed to stand up to the Carter Administration when it sent thousands of rowdy Cuban refugees to a resettlement center at Fort Chaffee in Sebastian County, issues for which White strongly criticized him. In addition, Monroe Schwartzlose, a 77-year-old turkey farmer, won a surprisingly large 31% in the Democrat primary against Clinton.
Clinton was expected to win the election easily, but White defeated him in an upset with 51.93% of the vote to Clinton's 48.07%.(pg. 48) White's election as governor coincided with the triumph of Ronald Reagan as U.S. President and the reelection of Arkansas U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers. After his election, White stated that his election was "a victory for the Lord".
White was sworn in on January 19, 1981. That same day, he fired the top three officials in the Arkansas Department of Energy, and he later abolished the department. As a conservative, White knew that tax and spend policies could not solve Arkansas's $80 million budget deficit, so he chose to reduce spending instead. For example, he reduced the governor’s staff by 25% and saved $600,000 by closing the state's office in Washington DC. In addition, White reformed Aransas's purchasing system, and he strongly lobbied for capital investment in the state, with the state receiving $530.8 million in revenue from his efforts.
On March 19, 1981, White signed a bill into law that mandated the teaching of creation science along with the theory of evolution. The law was criticized by secularists and liberals, but White and other theologically conservative Christians defended it. It was later overturned in the 1982 decision McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education.
White ran for re-election in the 1982 election. His popularity was hurt due to his support for the teaching of creation science, his appointment of Faubus, as well as claims that he was giving utility companies power over state policy by showing their leaders a list of potential nominees to the Public Service Commission—though it must be noted that after the rumors circulated he called a special legislative session and successfully passed utility regulatory reform laws.
He again defeated Chrisman in the Republican gubernatorial primary with 83.25% of the vote.(pg. 26) White won the support of James D. Johnson, the Democrat who had lost the 1966 gubernatorial election to Winthrop Rockefeller. However, Bill Clinton unseated White in the general election with 54.71% of the vote to White's 45.29%.(pg. 36) White's term ended on January 11, 1983. Clinton would remain governor of Arkansas until 1993, when he was inaugurated as the presidential successor to the defeated George Herbert Walker Bush.
In 1983, White joined the investment banking firm Stephens, Inc. White ran for governor in 1986, but he lost again to Clinton, receiving 36.08% of the vote to Clinton's 63.89%.(pg. 18) After this election loss, White became senior vice president at First Commercial Bank in Little Rock, serving until 1998.
In July 1998, White was appointed State Banking Commissioner by Republican Governor Mike Huckabee. Shortly after he was appointed, White visited every state-chartered bank. He enjoyed his work, and he served as state banking commissioner until 2003, when he died.
Personal life and death
White married Mary Blue Hollenberg, a member of a relatively prominent family, after he was discharged from the Air Force in 1961. They had three children but were divorced in 1973. White married Gay Daniels in 1975. They had no children but they retained custody of White's three children. They remained married until his death in 2003 and they had four grandchildren by that time.
White was a strong Christian, and his beliefs influenced his life, including his tenure as Arkansas governor. He grew up Baptist and was baptized as a boy at Beech Street Baptist Church, which another Republican Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, would later pastor. White's wife, Gay, was also a strong Christian, and at first they were members of First Methodist Church. However, their church was growing increasingly theologically liberal, so in 1977 the Whites and some other couples founded the Fellowship Bible Church, which was theologically conservative and orthodox, and strongly believed in biblical inerrancy. White appears to have been a member there until his death. In addition to this, he was very involved in Campus Crusade for Christ.
- Frank D. White. National Governors Association. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Frank Durward White (1933–2003). The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Frank White, 69, a Rare Victory Over Clinton in Governor's Race. The New York Times (from the Associated Press). Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Obituary Notice - Governor Frank D. White. ruebelfuneralhome.com. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Frank Durward White. Find A Grave. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Former governor Frank White dies at age 69. thecabin.net (from AP). May 22, 2003. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
- Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, May 17, 1980, p. 1324
- 1980 Arkansas Elections. Arkansas Secretary of State. January 1982. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
- Jones, Clayton & Merry, George B. (October 27, 1980). Governor's races: Most states will still be in Democratic hands. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
- McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
- 1982 Arkansas Elections. Arkansas Secretary of State. May 1983. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
- Arkansas Election Results 1986. Arkansas Secretary of State. Retrieved October 28, 2016.