William Allen White
(February 10, 1868 – January 31, 1944) was a renowned American newspaper editor
, politician, and author. Between World War I
and World War II
White became the iconic middle American
spokesman for thousands throughout the United States.
Born in Emporia
, White moved to El Dorado
with his parents, Allen and Mary Ann Hatten White, where he spent the majority of his childhood. He attended the College of Emporia
and University of Kansas
and in 1892 started work at The Kansas City Star
as an editorial writer.
White purchased his hometown newspaper, the Emporia Gazette for $3,000 in 1895. He rocketed to national fame and influence in the Republican Party with an August 16, 1896, editorial entitled "What's the Matter With Kansas? The paper is still run by the descendents of White.
White developed a friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt in the 1890s until Roosevelt's death in 1919. Roosevelt spent several nights at White's Wight and Wight-designed home, Red Rocks, during trips across the United States. The house is now a museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places. White was to say later, "Roosevelt bit me and I went mad. The two would be instrumental in forming the Progressive (Bull-Moose) Party in 1912 in opposition to the forces surrounding incumbent Republican president William Howard Taft. Later, White supported much of the New Deal, however, opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt in the three of Roosevelt's four elections as president, as White died before voting in the election of 1944.
White married Sallie Lindsay in 1893. They had two children, William Lindsay
, born in 1900, and a daughter Mary, born in 1904. Mary died in a 1921 horse-riding accident, leading White to write a famous eulogy "Mary White" on August 17, 1921.
Sage of Emporia
The last quarter century of White's life was spent as an unofficial national spokesman for middle America
. This led President Franklin Roosevelt to ask White to help generate public support for the Allies
before America's entrance into World War II
. White was fundamental in the formation of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
, sometimes known as the White Committee. White spent much of his last three years involved with this committee.
Sometimes referred to as the Sage of Emporia, he continued to write editorials for the Gazette until his death in 1944. He was also a founding editor for the Book of the Month Club along with long time friend Dorothy Canfield.
Famous Visitors to White's Home
He won a 1923 Pulitzer Prize
for his editorial "To an Anxious Friend", published July 27, 1922, after being arrested in a dispute over free speech following objections to the new Kansas Industrial Court law pushed by rival publisher and then Governor Henry Justin Allen
Objecting to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the state, he made an unsuccessful run for Kansas Governor in 1924. White was an early supporter of the Progressive Party led by Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
His autobiography, which was published posthumously, won a 1946 Pulitzer Prize
Life described him:
- He is the small-town boy who made good at home. To the small-town man who envies the glamour of the city, he is living assurance that small-town life may be preferable. To the city man who looks back with nostalgia on a small-town youth, he is a living symbol of small-town simplicity and kindliness and common sense.
The University of Kansas Journalism School is named for him. There are also two awards the William Allen White Foundation has created: The William Allen White Award for outstanding Journalistic merit and The Children's Book Award.
Rock group's use of White's image
Starting in the 1980s, alternative rock group They Might Be Giants
used large cardboard cutouts of White's face during many concerts, as well as in the video for "Don't Let's Start". His image also appears on the compact disc
(CD) single, several other videos, and is used at live performances.
From editorial Mary White
From 1933 editorial about the futility of war (referring to World War I):
From an editorial published in February 1943, shortly after President Franklin D. Roosevelt returned from the Casablanca Conference with Winston Churchill:
White had 20 works published throughout his life. Many of these works were collections of short stories, magazine articles, or speeches he gave throughout his long career.
- Woodrow Wilson, The Man, His Times, and His Tasks (1924)
- Calvin Coolidge, The Man Who is President (1925)
- Masks in a Pagaent (1928)
- A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (1938)
- The Autobiography of William Allen White (1946)
- The Real Issue: A Book of Kansas Stories (1896)
- The Court of Boyville (1899)
- Stratagems and Spoils: Stories of Love and Politics (1901)
- In Our Town (1906)
- A Certain Rich Man (1909)
- God's Puppets (1916)
- The Martial Adventures of Henry & Me (1918)
- In the Heart of a Fool (1918)
Political and social commentary
- The Old Order Changeth: A View of American Democracy (1910)
- Politics: The Citizen's Business (1924)
- Some Cycles of Cathay (1925)
- Boys-Then and Now (1926)
- What It's All About: Being A Reporter's Story of the Early Campaign of 1936 (1936)
- The Changing West: An Economic Theory About Our Golden Age (1939)