Texana Thursday: Remembering Mark White

The portrait of Gov. Mark White in the Texas Capitol rotunda (Texas State Library and Archives Commission image)

Gov. Mark White served from 1983-87 and is perhaps best remembered for his support of educational reform in Texas, including the “no pass, no play” law.

We had met on a couple of instances, perhaps most notably when I was a tour guide at the state Capitol in Austin.

This was the summer of 1986, which happened to be a gubernatorial election year. One day I was leading a group of tourists from the rotunda to the Senate chamber. As we were walking up the stairs I was visiting with a couple from Illinois. We got to the top of the stairs, turned to the left, and out of the chamber came the governor.

He saw me, just another of the tour guides. Then he saw who I was with: tourists. Potential voters.

He warmly shook hands with them. He invited the couple from Illinois to move to Texas, and then he was off to his next appointment.

When the tourists and I gathered in the Senate chamber, I veered off script a bit.

“This is a working Capitol building,” I said. “And some of you just had a chance to meet our governor, Mark White.”

For my tourists that day, meeting Governor Mark White was a memorable experience. For me, that vignette still brings a smile. You just never know who you meet on the tours.

White went on to lose the campaign, but he remained active in civic and public affairs until his death in August.

He earned his place in Texas history. May he rest in peace.

To learn more about White, read my article on him, which was posted this week in the Handbook of Texas Online, published by the Texas State Historical Association.