I. S. White, Civic Leader and Civil Rights Advocate
Israel Scott White, civic leader and civil-rights advocate, was born near Longview on March 15, 1885. He was the youngest of three sons of Noah and Susan White, who worked as dirt farmers. White attended the Pleasant Hill Community School near his home and was encouraged at an early age to study law.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Bishop College in Marshall and in the mid-1920s entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. After his graduation from Howard in 1927, he returned to Texas and established a funeral home near downtown Longview. White decided to forego a law practice and offer legal advice informally, so as to circumvent the animosity toward black attorneys prevalent in the white community.
On November 6, 1937, he married Velma Isam. They had one child, Agnes Sue White. Enriched by the discovery of oil on his family’s land, White served as vice president of the Universal Oil and Gas Mining Company, an entirely black-owned business. In 1948 he and his family founded the Longview Burial Association, which served as a training ground and employment center for blacks interested in the insurance business.
White served as chairman of the association and also as a member of the executive committee of the State Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association of Texas. White also owned and drove an ambulance; he became angered at the obvious neglect for black patients in segregated hospitals run by whites.
He persuaded the directors of the Camp Normal Industrial Institute, a vocational school for blacks, to incorporate their institution into a hospital. White drew up plans for the hospital and found a black physician, Dr. Obra Jesuit Moore, to serve as its administrator. White protested infringements on black voting rights.
When the Democratic party white primary was abolished, he led voter registration and poll tax drives in Gregg County. He also held “how to vote” sessions for the Longview chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in which he demonstrated the use of voting machines. White kept a list of eligible voters and chided blacks who were registered but did not vote.
Blacks familiar with his work nicknamed him Judge White. In 1958 he ran for a seat on the board of the Longview Independent School District and received a quarter of the votes. He also joined civil-rights attorneys in a successful suit to desegregate Kilgore Junior College and led a funding drive to help finance the lawsuit of Sweatt v. Painter that integrated the University of Texas.
His attempt to enroll his daughter and one of her friends into the all-white Longview Junior High School did not succeed but resulted in the construction of a junior high school for blacks. White was an active member of the Bethel Baptist Church at Longview. He died on December 22, 1960.
Source: Texas State Historical Association Online