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Mark White

Mark Wells White, Jr.,
Governor Mark White addressing a joint session of the Texas Legislature on January 14, 1987, six days before leaving office.
43rd Governor of Texas
In office
January 18, 1983 – January 20, 1987
Lieutenant William P. Hobby, Jr.
Preceded by Bill Clements
Succeeded by Bill Clements
46th Attorney General of Texas
In office
January 19, 1979 – January 18, 1983
Governor Bill Clements
Preceded by John Hill
Succeeded by Jim Mattox
74th Secretary of State of Texas
In office
January 19, 1973 – October 27, 1977
Governor Dolph Briscoe
Preceded by V. Larry Teaver, Jr.
Succeeded by George Strake, Jr.
Personal details
Born Mark Wells White
(1940-03-17) March 17, 1940
Longview, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Linda Gale Thompson
Children 3 (two sons, one daughter)
Residence Houston, Texas, U.S.
Alma mater Baylor University
Profession Lawyer and politician
Military service
Service/branch Texas National Guard
Unit 36th Infantry Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Mark Wells White, Jr., (born March 17, 1940) is an American lawyer, who served as the 43rd Governor of Texas from January 18, 1983 to January 20, 1987.


  • Biography 1
  • Career in Texas politics 2
  • Governor 3
    • Education 3.1
  • Private sector 4
  • Legacy 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


White was born in Henderson, in Rusk County, Texas to parents Mark Wells White, Sr., and Sarah Elizabeth White. White attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and was a member of the Tryon Coterie Club, now Phi Delta Theta (Texas Lambda Chapter) at Baylor. He graduated from Baylor Law School in 1965. After spending time practicing law in a private practice in Houston (Harris County), White served as the state's assistant attorney general. In 1973, White was appointed as Texas secretary of state under Governor Dolph Briscoe and also served in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard.

Career in Texas politics

White served as secretary of state until 1977, when he resigned to run for state attorney general, where he served until 1983. In the 1978 general election, White defeated the Republican choice, James A. Baker, III, a Houston lawyer, businessman, and power broker affiliated with the Bushes of Houston. White polled 1,249,846 votes and (55.13 percent) to Baker's 999,431 votes and (44.08 percent). As the state's chief enforcement officer, he co-chaired the Federal-State Enforcement Coordinating Committee and was a member of the Governor's Organized Crime Prevention Council. On the national level, he was elected Chairman of the Southern Conference of Attorneys General in May 1981.


White declined to seek a second term as state attorney general, but chose to seek the governorship in 1982 against fellow Democrat Bob Armstrong, who was the outgoing state Land Commissioner, who vacated the General Land Office following twelve years, and then the incumbent Bill Clements, Texas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction. In November 1982, he defeated Clements over concerns about the governor's poor economic numbers and lack of support from minority groups. White received 1,697,870 votes (53.2 percent) to Clements' 1,465,537 (45.9 percent) in a year where Texas Democrats swept all the statewide offices being led by U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen (who won a third six-year term to the Senate) and the legendary Lieutenant Governor of Texas William P. Hobby Jr. (Hobby was first elected lieutenant governor in 1972) both of whom carried the Democratic Party's statewide banner which also included the elections of Jim Mattox as state attorney general, Bob Bullock, who won his third term as Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts-having been elected in 1974, Ann Richards as state treasurer, Garry Mauro as Commissioner of the General Land Office, and Jim Hightower as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture while Democrats easily maintained their majorities in both houses of the Texas Legislature. As the state's forty-third chief executive from January 18, 1983 to January 20, 1987, White worked to "preserve and enhance... resources so that Texas would not fall back, but go forward as a state of the future." His main concerns were the economy and education. By focusing on Texas' resources, White was able to work on many problems facing the state in the early 1980s.

The Texas economy during the early and mid-1980s was volatile. The price of oil declined and pushed Texas into a recession. This led Governor White to "lay the groundwork for a more diversified economy--one less reliant upon the...swings of a single industry."

Among White's appointments was Elma Salinas Ender as the first Hispanic woman to serve as judge of a district court in Texas. From 1983 until her retirement in 2012, Ender was judge of the 341st Judicial District, based in Laredo.[1]


White sought to improve education, transportation, water resources, law enforcement, and taxes to lure new industry to Texas. Education was an essential factor for White. When he took office, Texas was ranked as one of the lowest performing states for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) also in teachers' salaries. After taking office, White immediately appointed a committee on Public Education, called a special session of the legislature in 1984, and worked with lawmakers to pass the Educational Opportunity Act (EOA). Through White's work, Texas saw the desired results. SAT scores increased by twelve points, Texas first graders improved in statewide tests and teacher salaries increased by $5,000.

By focusing on education, White was able to make Texas a "state of the future" with regard to its most important resource, its children. Through his diligent work as Governor of Texas, many of the problems of the present and future were alleviated. However, four years later, White was defeated by Clements, who opted for a second, nonconsecutive term. Some believe that the wildly unpopular "no-pass, no-play" policies of the White administration, which prohibited any high school student athletes from participating in varsity sports if they were failing any single element of their overall class load, sealed the doom of a second term. Clements polled 1,813,779 votes (52.7%) to White's 1,584,515 votes (46.1%) in the November 1986 general election and left office on January 20, 1987. Among those who were elected along with White in 1982, Hobby, Bullock, Richards, Mattox, Hightower and Mauro were re-elected in their respective posts.

Among White's advisors as governor were the Dallas industrialist H. Ross Perot and former State Senator Max Sherman, who left a brief stint in the administration to become dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin.

White served as governor during Texas' sesquicentennial in 1986 and oversaw a number of the celebrations concerning that anniversary. He also made a cameo appearance in the popular CBS drama series Dallas.

Private sector

Following his departure from office, White worked for the law firm Keck, Mahin & Cate. White attempted to run for governor again in 1990, but he was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ann Richards, who then defeated Jim Mattox in a runoff election and the Republican Clayton W. Williams, Jr., in the general election. During the 1990 campaign, a campaign commercial depicted White "walking down a hallway displaying larger-than-life photos of the men put to death during his administration in 1983-1986. 'Only a governor can make executions happen,' White declared as ominous music played in the background. 'I did, and I will.'"[2]

White, who practices law, is chairman of the board for the Jolanda Jones in the 2003 and 2007 city elections; the latter endorsement led to winning an at-large seat.

In 2011, White publicly opposed Texas A&M's potential departure from the Big 12 conference to join the Southeastern Conference (SEC). [3]


Mark White Elementary School, a Houston Independent School District elementary school, will open in August 2016.[4]


  1. ^ Valerie Godines Fitzgerald, "Historic Path: Judge Ender retires from post," Laredo Morning Times, December 31, 2012, pp. 1, 14A
  2. ^ Gottschalk, Marie (2011-03-16) Is Death Different?, The New Republic
  3. ^ "College Confidential: Mark White, former Tx governor, says A&M would be making a "permanent mistake" to leave Big 12". 2011-08-17. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  4. ^ Baird, Annette. "Planned HISD elementary to relieve crowding." Houston Chronicle. June 10, 2014. Retrieved on December 21, 2014.

External links

  • Photos of Mark White, hosted by the Portal to Texas History
  • [8]
  • [9] Governor Mark White's press conference on No Pass, No Play on August 8, 1985.
  • [10] O.L. McCotter letter to Governor White on state prisons, July 8, 1985.
  • White, Governor Mark and David Goldstein. Governor Mark White Oral History, Houston Oral History Project, November 23, 2009.
  • [11] TX Attorney General Race-November 7, 1978
  • [12] TX Governor Democratic Primary Race-May 1, 1982
  • [13] TX Governor Race-November 2, 1982
  • [14] TX Governor Race-November 4, 1986
Political offices
Preceded by
V. Larry Teaver, Jr.
Secretary of State of Texas
January 19, 1973 – October 27, 1977
Succeeded by
George Strake, Jr.
Preceded by
Bill Clements
Governor of Texas
January 18, 1983 – January 20, 1987
Succeeded by
Bill Clements
Legal offices
Preceded by
John L. Hill, Jr.
Texas Attorney General
January 19, 1979 – January 18, 1983
Succeeded by
Jim Mattox
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