Jackson S. White, Jr., who died on Sunday, September 10, 2023, at age 87 was a well-known Abingdon, VA, attorney, community and church leader, and technology enthusiast.
Born on December 6, 1935, in Richmond, VA, to the late J. Stuart White and Lucile G. White, Jack attended the public schools of Richmond and Bristol, VA, graduating in 1953 from Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond.
He then enrolled at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, where he was active in campus publications and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. In 1957, Jack graduated from W&M with an A.B. degree in government and a commission as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S Army Reserve.
At W&M, his love for journalism and photography grew and for four years he was the unofficial college photographer, taking photographs for the student yearbook and newspaper, as well as the alumni magazine. He also wrote for the student newspaper and helped pay for his college education by working as Williamsburg-area reporter and photographer for the daily Richmond News Leader.
After a brief period as a writer for the Coalfield Progress in Norton, VA, Jack began his active duty as a U.S. Army Artillery officer, stationed at Ft. Sill, OK, and Ft. Knox, KY.
Upon his discharge in 1958, he worked as a Staff Correspondent for the Associated Press, based in Bluefield, WV. From there, he covered major national and international news stories in Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia. While in Bluefield, Jack married Sylvia Lewis Beck, a W&M classmate, from Thomasville, NC. The AP offered Jack a bureau chief’s job. The NBC affiliate in Huntington and Charleston, WV asked him to become its state capital correspondent. But he accepted an offer to become the 11 o’clock news anchor for the NBC affiliate, WCYB-TV, in Bristol, VA.
While working in Bristol, Jack decided on a career change and was accepted by the University of Virginia School of Law, where he enrolled in 1961. At the law school, he graduated near the top of his class, was chosen for the editorial board of the prestigious Virginia Law Review and as student assistant to former Dean F.D.G. Ribble, helping teach his Constitutional Law courses.
After graduating from law school in 1964, Jack and Sylvia moved with their family to Abingdon, where Jack began his practice with the established firm of Penn, Stuart & Miller. Almost five years later, he left this firm to establish his own law practice in Abingdon. Two years later, it became the law firm of White Elliott & Bundy, where Jack practiced for almost 30 years.
During this time, the firm grew to be the one of the largest west of Roanoke, having as many as 14 attorneys in three offices. At age 65, Jack withdrew from that firm and engaged in a solo law practice for several more years.
Based on evaluations by his peers, Jack was given the highest Av rating for his legal ability and reputation. He represented a wide variety of clients in civil litigation and in business, property, and estate planning matters. In the U.S. District Court at Abingdon, he was involved in some of the largest civil litigation ever pursued in Southwest Virginia. Upon nomination of the late U.S. District Judge Glen Williams, Jack became a permanent member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference.
Jack served as President of the Washington County Bar Association and was active in law practice management and publications work for the Virginia State Bar, Virginia Bar Association, and American Bar Association. He was one of the Virginia bar’s early computer users, converting his law firm to computerized word processing, research, bookkeeping, and communications. He then lectured on these subjects for statewide legal organizations in Virginia and Tennessee.
When Jack and Sylvia moved to Abingdon in 1964, they joined St. Thomas Episcopal Church where they became active members. Jack served on the vestry of St Thomas, where he was a licensed lay reader, headed the finance committee, and taught church school classes. He also served for three years as a member of the Executive Board of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.
In his local community, Jack was a member until his death of the Kiwanis Club of Abingdon, which he served as Secretary-Treasurer, and later as President. Beginning in 2003, he was chosen for a variety of leadership positions by the Capital District of Kiwanis International. They included five years as a member the District Board, four years as a Lt. Governor and three years as the District Trustee for Southwest Virginia.
Locally, Jack held leadership positions in the Virginia Highlands Festival and was Campaign Chair, President, and Board Chair of the Washington County United Fund.
He was single-handedly responsible for the establishment of the Washington County Law Library and led a community effort to build the current Washington County Public Library in Abingdon, while organizing and serving as President of the Friends of the Library.
Beginning in 1980, a wave of censorship efforts began against public libraries across the nation. A focal point of these efforts was Abingdon, where a local minister and county supervisor tried to have certain books removed from the Public Library and threatened a public referendum on the matter. These men soon were being featured as guests on national radio talk shows and the national media descended on Abingdon to cover the controversy.
At the request of the Library Director and Library Board, Jack spent about half his time for a full year as an unpaid volunteer, developing support for the library and advising the director and board how to deal with the censorship efforts and media coverage. The CBS-TV program, 60 Minutes, came to Abingdon and covered a community rally of library supporters. Jack was the keynote speaker and portions of his talk were included in the resulting 60 Minutes program. He often said that, of all his community work, he was proudest of the support he was able to give the library during this controversy.
Throughout the above, Jack was a proud husband and father. He was devoted to his wife Sylvia and their three children: the late Stacey Jean White Thomas of Richmond, J. Stuart White, III, of Charlotte, NC, and Mary Elizabeth White Edgecomb of Atlanta, GA. Those children have given Jack and Sylvia 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Besides his wife and three children, their spouses, children and grandchildren, Jack is survived by his sister Joanne White Woody of Virginia Beach, VA, and her two children and three grandchildren.
A funeral service from the Episcopal liturgy will be held on Saturday, September 23, 2023, at 2 p.m., at St. Thomas Church, 124 East Main Street, Abingdon. Interment will follow in the St. Thomas Columbarium.
Frost Funeral Home and Cremation Services is honored to be serving the White family.