Friends: White “true statesman”

Published 12:01 am Saturday, October 23, 2010

Former state Rep. F.P. “Skippy” White was remembered as a “true statesman” who served his hometown, county and state.

White, 69, died Thursday after a long illness. The Pollard native served in Alabama House District 66 for 24 years, from 1982-2006. Two bridges over Big Escambia Creek in Escambia County are named for him; his work on the Joint Transportation Committee led to many improvements to U.S. 31.

But he will also be remembered as a “hometown boy made good,” said his longtime friend and fellow Pollard United Methodist Church member Sally Finlay.

“He could fight hard and play hard, but he had a kind heart,” she said.

Finlay said some people may remember that White was a member, with his two brothers, of singing trio the Kleen Cuts, a group that had some popular records and played on Pensacola radio and TV stations when they were young men.

White had also served as a firefighter and was a councilman in Pollard before he was elected to the Legislature.

In the House, White sponsored legislation creating the Escambia County Oil and Gas Trust Fund. He was also chairman of the prison committee and founded the Legislative Law Enforcement Award, which he even designed, Finlay said.

Escambia County Commissioner Larry White said the former representative was a “close, lifetime friend.”

“His record of public service is impeccable,” Larry White said. “He was a true statesman. His tenure in office representing the citizens was very effective and very profound. He will always be remembered for his ability to get things done as well as his friendly and jovial demeanor. He was a lot of fun to be around at any time.”

White’s 24 years in the Legislature marked the longest serving tenure of a lawmaker from Escambia County and one of the longest tenures of any lawmaker in the state, Finlay said.

“He served nearly a quarter of a century,” she said. “He saw several changes of management in the governor’s mansion.”

And White was able to work with politicians on both sides of the aisle, Finlay said.

White also helped get a change made that residents can still appreciate — the elimination of phone tolls between Flomaton and Brewton.

Commission Chairman David Stokes said White was a friend to the county.

“In my relationship with Skippy I always found him to be personable and a joy to work with,” Stokes said. “Anytime I called him in reference to county business needing his assistance, he always had an open door policy and would do just about anything for us. He was a good friend of the county and we will truly miss him.”

Brewton lawyer and former district attorney Mike Godwin said White was a friend to the court system when he was a legislator.

“Skippy was a good friend, interested in law,” Godwin said. “He was helpful to us in the law profession. He helped to abolish the position of constable and divert that money to other uses. Most importantly he helped to abolish the office of coroner. Anybody can be a coroner, but we are one of only four counties in the state to use a medical doctor as a medical examiner. We asked him to do it, and he came through for us.

“He also helped to pass the act for pretrial diversion, which became the model for the state. There are many other things that I could think of, but those are just a few. Skippy will be missed.”

Pollard Mayor Valeria Osby said White will be missed in his hometown.

“I have known him all of my life and our families were like one big family,” Osby said. “He was a mentor with the young and the old. Curtis Finley, former mayor of Pollard, had a philosophy that ‘the birds sing sweeter and the air smells fresher in the town of Pollard than anywhere else in the world.’ He passed that saying on to Skippy and it is on a plaque in the town hall. Skippy will be missed in this community. He loved the town of Pollard and the whole community he served. He wanted me to run for mayor and he told me he was very proud of me. Although several newspapers focused on my being black, it wasn’t about color but was about his love and my love for the people we serve.”

White is survived by his wife, Clara, two sons, Todd and Hugh, and a daughter, Sarah Anne, and their families. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Flomaton Funeral Home Chapel. Visitation is from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the funeral home.

One of White’s favorite songs, Finlay said, was a hymn called “The Best.”

“The lyrics say, ‘Every work for Jesus will be blest, but He asks from everyone his best …” Finlay said. “‘But unto Him is due our best, our all.”

“And he certainly did give his best,” she said of White.