Frank D. White, Governor

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Frank Durward White (Kyle)

Also Known As: "Durward Frank Kyle Jr."
Birthplace: Texarkana, Bowie County, Texas, United States
Death: May 21, 2003 (69)
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Durward Frank Kyle, Sr. and Ida Bottoms Clark
Ex-husband of Mary Blue Hollenberg

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Frank D. White, Governor

Frank Durward White (June 4, 1933 – May 21, 2003) was an American banker and politician who served as the 41st governor of Arkansas. He served a single two-year term from 1981 to 1983. He is one of two people to have defeated Bill Clinton in an election, the other being the late U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas' 3rd congressional district.

Early years, family, education

White was born on June 4, 1933 in Texarkana in Bowie County, Texas, as Durward Frank Kyle, Jr. His father, Durward Frank Kyle, died when White was seven, and White's mother, the former Ida Bottoms Clark, married Loftin E. White of Highland Park, Texas. He took his stepfather's name and became "Frank Durward White". After the death of the stepfather in 1950, the Whites returned to Texarkana. White enrolled in the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico, and was subsequently recommended to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, by then U.S. Senator John L. McClellan of Arkansas. He graduated from the academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1956. He also excelled in the study of Spanish. Though he was a Naval Academy graduate, White became a pilot in the United States Air Force. One of his first missions in the Air Force, in 1957, was to fly members of the 101st Airborne Division from Kentucky to Little Rock in the Little Rock Integration Crisis. White was discharged from the Air Force in 1961 with the rank of Captain.

From his first marriage to Mary Blue Hollenberg, a member of a prominent Little Rock family, White had three children. In 1975, two years after his divorce, White married Gay Daniels, who survived him. White and Daniels acquired custody of the children from his first marriage, but they had no children together.

White was baptized as a youth in the Christian faith at Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana in Miller County, Arkansas, later pastored by future Republican Governor Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee. He and Gay attended the First United Methodist Church in downtown Little Rock for a short time. They left the Methodist congregation and, with other couples, established the fundamentalist Fellowship Bible Church.

Business career

In 1961, having left the Air Force, White became an account executive for Merrill Lynch. He held that position until 1973 when he joined banker Bill Bowen in the management of Commercial National Bank in Little Rock. Bowen was a staunch Democrat who later opposed White politically though the two maintained a cordial business relationship. During this time, White would serve as the first director of the Little Rock Port Authority from 1972 to 1973.

White was appointed by Democratic Governor David Pryor to head the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC). The industrial panel was originally created by Democratic Governor Orval Eugene Faubus and first directed by Winthrop Rockefeller, who in 1966 used his experience in the AIDC to get elected as Arkansas' first Republican governor since 1874. White left the AIDC after two years and became president of Capital Savings and Loan Association in Little Rock. Democrats later derided White's tenure at AIDC by pointing out that the number of industries which came to the state was much reduced from earlier and later years, a situation that Republicans attributed to a national recession.

Campaign 1980

Early in 1980, White switched from Democratic to Republican affiliation to run for governor. First, he defeated former State Representative Marshall Chrisman, a businessman from Ozark in Franklin County, for the gubernatorial nomination. In a low-turnout open primary, White polled 5,867 votes (71.8 percent) to Chrisman's 2,310 (28.2 percent). Clinton also faced a stronger-than-expected challenger in his primary from Monroe Schwarzlose, a turkey farmer from Kingsland in Cleveland County in south Arkansas. Schwarzlose's 31 percent of the primary vote foreshadowed that Clinton could be in trouble for the upcoming general election. Despite this, it was widely expected that Clinton would win the election.

White hired Paula Unruh of Tulsa to manage the campaign. She decided to focus upon (1) Clinton's unpopular increase in the cost of automobile registration tags and by (2) the Carter administration's sending thousands of Cuban refugees, some unruly, to a detention camp at Fort Chaffee, outside Fort Smith in Sebastian County in western Arkansas. Her decision paid big dividends, as White unseated Clinton. White received 435,684 votes (51.9 percent) to Clinton's 403,242 (48.1 percent). White won fifty-one of the state's seventy-five counties. A. Lynn Lowe of Texarkana, Clinton's Republican opponent in 1978, by contrast, had won only six counties.

White was the second Republican ever elected governor in Arkansas since reconstruction.

Two years as governor

White appointed numerous Arkansas Republicans to state positions. Former gubernatorial nominee Ken Coon was named to head the Arkansas Employment Security Division. Another former gubernatorial candidate, Len E. Blaylock of Perry County was named appointments secretary. Blaylock, who had a reputation as an extremely competent administrator, screened applicants for state positions. Former State Representative Preston Bynum of Siloam Springs in usually Republican Benton County in northwestern Arkansas, became White's chief aide. Harold L. Gwatney, an automobile dealer in Jacksonville, was named to the coveted position of adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard. White also depended on the advice of his legislative counsel, State Representative Carolyn Pollan of Fort Smith. New to the legislature with the White administration was Judy Petty of Little Rock, who had waged a nationally watched campaign against former U.S. Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas' 2nd congressional district in 1974.

White signed a law which required the teaching of creationism in Arkansas public schools, along with the theory of evolution. The law was subsequently overturned in 1982 in the court case McLean v. Arkansas.

White also created a controversy within his own party in 1981, when he appointed Orval Faubus, a former Democratic governor, to head the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.

Re-election loss and later career

White was unable to secure a hold on the governorship. Chrisman and a third candidate, nutritionist Connie Voll of Lonoke, challenged him in the 1982 primary. Voll was the first woman to seek the GOP nomination for governor and the second to seek the party nomination for a statewide office since Leona Troxell. Clinton then defeated him in a rematch of the 1980 contest during the general election: 431,855 (54.7 percent) to 357,496 (45.3 percent). White won only nineteen counties in the 1982 rematch, which occurred in a nationally Democratic year when the nation was in a recession.

After his defeat, White supported the selection of a former Rockefeller supporter, Morris S. Arnold, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, to succeed the temporary state party Chairman Bob Cohee, originally of Baxter County. Cohee had become acting chairman on the death of Harlan Holleman in March 1982 and had resigned a federal position to work all year for White's unsuccessful reelection. Arnold defeated Cohee, but the Republican State Central Committee would not disclose the secret-ballot vote. Arnold did not serve the full two-year term and was succeeded by first vice-chairman Robert "Bob" Leslie.

Arkansas gubernatorial terms became four years with the 1986 general election. In 1986, Faubus unsuccessfully challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination. White defeated former Lieutenant Governor Maurice L. Britt in the Republican primary. In the third White v. Clinton race, Clinton again easily prevailed, once again having benefited from a nationally Democratic year. White's loss in this election dramatically damaged his political image, making it very unlikely that he could win the governorship again.

He returned to First Commercial Bank in Little Rock after his 1986 defeat as senior vice president until his retirement from the bank in 1998. White declined to seek the Republican nomination for governor again in 1990 and instead supported Sheffield Nelson in his primary race against U.S. Representative Tommy F. Robinson. That year, Clinton won election as governor for the fifth time; two years later he would become President of the United States. Without sufficient support and resources to run for elected office again, White left elective politics but remained active in Republican affairs.

State banking commissioner and death

From 1998 to 2003, White served as Arkansas Banking Commissioner, an appointment from Governor Mike Huckabee. Although he was appointed on what was supposed to be a temporary basis, he remained in the post until shortly before his death from a heart attack in 2003, about two weeks before his seventieth birthday. White's time in the Banking Department was noted by his practice of visiting all of Arkansas' state-chartered banks at least once a year.

White is interred at the historic Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Republican Party began hosting the "'Hi, I'm Frank White' Awards Dinner" in 2006 to honor those persons who have done the most to build the Arkansas GOP.

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Frank D. White, Governor's Timeline

June 4, 1933
Texarkana, Bowie County, Texas, United States
May 21, 2003
Age 69
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States