Warren White: There & Back
By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, January 28, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
American Legion Post 35.
HAMPTON -- Until last January, you may have seen him walking the halls of the Home Depot in an orange apron.
Before 1992, you may have seen him negotiating the physics of rocket science in Houston with NASA.
Perhaps in the fifties you saw him walking down a red carpet in Honolulu, Hawaii with a bantam-weight Brazilian Boxing Champion on one arm and the boxer's manager on the other.
Regardless, it seems like town resident Warren White's been everywhere and seen everything.
And whether the last time you saw him was when he was doing amphibious maneuvers with the Marine Corps in Newfoundland, now he's retired in Hampton — and between his work with the United Methodist Church, American Legion Post 35 and Boy Scout Troop 176, he's focusing his efforts on the good of the town.
"I just like it here," he says.
White, a member of the Eagle Scout Board of Review, has been active in the Boy Scouts of American program for more 50 years, he says.
Very active might be more exact—over a couple cups of coffee at the Old Salt on Monday morning, we bumped into two parents and one scout that he knows through the program.
"It's a great thing to be involved with," he says.
He's also the drummer of the Church Notes, a band that performs with United Methodist Church, where White is a popular face.
But White's story begins in Irvington, New Jersey, his hometown. He was 15-years old and attending Irvington High School when his father died from exposure to emery wheel fibers. White and his mother relocated to Tampa, Florida. And not long after — at the age of 16 — White joined the United States Marine Corps.
"I wanted to fight in the war because I was a nut," White says. "My brother told me if I ever joined, he'd kill me. I made my mind up to join right then."
White says he was inspired by the prospect of earning the GI Bill and going to college. After four years in the Marine Corps, he moved back to Florida and attended the University of Tampa — where he was elected class president four years in a row.
He studied general science, he says, and learned a great deal about the external construction of aircraft. But after graduation, he took a deep-seeded interest in aircraft engines with him on the road. With only $5 between himself and two friends, they hitchhiked all the way up to Cincinnati to attempt a job a General Electric (GE).
"All we ate was pepperoni and cheese from Tampa to Cincinnati," he says.
It took GE eight weeks to review his application. He was hired, and eventually enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, where he joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC).
Once, when travelling by plane, a stewardess asked if anyone could speak Spanish. White replied that he did, and in turn helped two Brazilian men fill out some forms. He quickly learned that the men were Brazilian bantam-weight boxing champion Pasquel Perez and his manager, on their way to a title fight in Tokyo with a stop in Honolulu.
The three hit it off, and Perez insisted that White join his royal welcome in Honolulu — which included a red carpet, two bands, "dozens of nice looking ladies with hula skirts" and a lot of great food.
"There was a sumptuous layout of chow," he says, noting that the same thing happened when they arrived in Tokyo, where his picture made the front of the newspaper.
White got married in 1957 when he returned from Japan — meaning he's been married for almost 48 years.
As his family began to grow (including three sons and two daughters) he left GE to work with the Beryllium corporation where, among other duties, he helped design guidance systems for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"That was fun, because I got involved in all the major guidance system procedures," he says. Incidentally, he was involved in the design of some nuclear missiles and nuclear reactors.
Ultimately he worked at Pratt-Whitney Aircraft, where he ran Houston operations, working closely with NASA officials and becoming friendly and familiar with a number of NASA astronauts. He aided in the design of fuel cells and rocket engines, and helped put people into orbit.
He went on to work with Raytheon and RCA, before RCA was bought by GE — and White's career came full circle. It was time to retire.
Now, he works with the American Legion. He's a real estate broker. He's revered among the local Boy Scouts troop, and he can still speak Spanish — not to mention Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. He's also very active in the church.
One person he's come to know is Town Manager James Barrington.
"I first met Warren White when he invited me and my wife to come to Blue and Gold Banquet for the scout troop, and he's been inviting us regularly since then," Barrington says. "Warren is such a wonderful individual.
"You never know who you're dealing with when you're dealing with people," he added. "You find out that they have all sorts of interesting hobbies and backgrounds, and it's wonderful."