William Lindsay White

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William Lindsay White (1900–1973), American journalist, was the son of newspaper editor William Allen White. White grew up in Emporia, Kansas, went to the nearby University of Kansas, and then transferred to and graduated from Harvard College. After completing his course of studies at Harvard, he succeeded his father as editor of The Emporia Gazette upon his father's death. Among White's most noteworthy books are They Were Expendable and Lost Boundaries.

Early life[edit]

William Lindsay White was the only son of William Allen and Sallie White, born in Emporia on June 17, 1900. W.L., or "Bill," had a younger sister, Mary, who was killed in a horse-riding accident at the age of 16 in May 1921. Editor White groomed his only surviving child for work in journalism, hoping for his son to take the reins of The Emporia Gazette one day. White took 18-year-old Bill to France to witness the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I.

Eventually, William Allen White persuaded his son to return to Emporia. After his father’s death in 1944, W.L. took over The Emporia Gazette, where he developed a reputation as a fiercely independent editor. He redesigned the paper and won first place in a national design contest.

The war years[edit]

Before America’s entry in World War II, young Bill was a prominent war correspondent, winning the Overseas Press Club Award. He covered the Blitz in London and broadcast the editorial "The Last Christmas Tree" from war-torn Finland in 1940.

White's first published book was titled What People Said (1938), which examined the Kansas bond scandal. He wrote 14 books in his career, three of which were made into feature Hollywood films. W.L. was also a radio correspondent for CBS News, sometimes filling in for Edward R. Murrow. For most of his later career, William Lindsay White was Roving Editor for Reader’s Digest and published numerous articles in the magazine.

Life in Emporia[edit]

Generally, William Allen White was loved by most Emporians, but W.L. was not. He attended Harvard, but while studying there he picked up an English accent. W.L. also wore a monocle and was one of the best-dressed men in the nation – quite a sight among farmers in bib overalls and bankers in off-the-rack suits.

His wife, Kathrine, born in Cawker City, Kansas, was a New York sophisticate who had been a fact-checker for Time magazine and an original staff member for Life magazine. She seemed to have an air of aloofness and was not the type to attend a quilting bee or gossip around the bridge table. She occasionally showed her compassionate side to others, especially when one of The Emporia Gazette staff was sick or in trouble.

Not only were W.L. and his wife created from a different mold than most in Emporia, their living arrangements also did not sit well with some community members. Though the couple maintained a residence in Emporia, they also had a brownstone in New York City in which they lived for half of the year.

It wasn’t just the couple’s lifestyle that aggravated those in Emporia. W.L. stirred up many battles with the city. For example, when the old courthouse needed repairs, the city decided to build a new one instead. W.L. led a counterattack to repair the old courthouse and lost. The county ended up with its 1950 building, now an annex to the fourth courthouse. W.L. later angered the local chamber of commerce by waging a bitter fight against tax breaks given to companies that relocated to Emporia.

The one issue that made W.L. more enemies than any other was his resistance to urban renewal. He thought urban renewal was for the poor and not meant to provide new buildings for merchants in downtown Emporia. This battle split Emporia and made enemies of former friends throughout the town.

W.L. was also actively involved in politics. He served in the Kansas Legislature. White also drummed up support for Dwight D. Eisenhower's run for the Presidency in 1952 and was an active supporter for the presidential campaign of friend Richard Nixon. When Bob Dole first ran for the United States Senate, W.L. threw a dinner party at the Broadview Hotel and brought most of the Eastern Kansas Republican leaders. The dinner was pivotal to Dole's success in his first campaign.

W.L. died of cancer in 1973. Just before his death, the Emporia city commission renamed the 1940 Civic Auditorium in his honor. After his death, a memorial fund was established in his name to plant more trees in Emporia. By the turn of the century, more than 300 trees had been planted with money from this fund. There is also a bronze bust and a sample of his writing in White Memorial Park at Sixth Avenue and Merchant Street in Emporia.

Bibliography[edit]

  • What People Said, 1938*
  • Zero Hour, 1940
  • Journey for Margaret, 1941*
  • They Were Expendable, 1942*
  • Queens Die Proudly, 1943
  • Report on the Russians, 1945
  • Report on the Germans, 1947
  • Lost Boundaries, 1948*
  • Land of Milk and Honey, 1949
  • Bernard Baruch, 1951
  • Back Down the Ridge, 1953
  • The Captives of Korea, 1957
  • The Little Toy Dog, 1962
  • Report on the Asians, 1969

(*) Denotes a book made into a feature film

See also[edit]