Dr. Joe Ellis White, of Edmond, Okla., departed this life on May 31, 2018. He was 80 years old. Dr. White was a living legend to his sons, grandchildren, friends, and colleagues. He will be dearly missed.
Joe was born on July 3, 1937, and was raised in Alex, Okla., to the proud parents of Charlie and Cleo White. Raised on White Farms, his parents instilled in him hard work and the value of education, which are lessons that he carried with him throughout his life. A natural athlete, Joe enjoyed all sports, but excelled in boxing, baseball, and football. Joe was a competitive boxer and threw a hard driving baseball, but his love was football. Joe played quarterback at Alex High School and received a football scholarship to play at Murray State College, where he was later inducted into the inaugural class of the Murray State College Distinguished Athletic Hall of Fame. Joe went on to Oklahoma State University and, while at OSU, met the love of his life, Melba Sue Curfman, which started his true life's adventure. Joe and Melba Sue had two sons, Vance King and Joe Jr. It is unknown who was more proud - Joe being "King's" and "J.J.'s" dad or Vance and Joe Jr. being Joe White's sons. They, like their father, loved the game of football, and it was a proud moment for Joe to see both of his sons attend college on football scholarships.
For a young Kennedy-Democrat, the 1960's were the best of times to start a career. Graduating from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1959, Joe began his long and distinguished Oklahoma educational career coaching football and teaching English in his hometown of Alex, Okla. Three years later, in 1962, he accepted a position in Roswell, N.M., as an assistant football coach and teacher. But his heart was in Oklahoma, and he returned a little more than a year later to serve as the head football coach at Minco High School. In 1964, Joe was hired as a teacher and head football coach at Elk City High School. During that time, Joe was attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University and, in 1965, received his Master's in Education. Soon thereafter, he was promoted to athletic director and assistant principal. In 1968, he was named the head principal at Elk City High School. In 1970, Joe left Elk City to become superintendent of Sentinel Public Schools. However, Joe soon was called back to Elk City to become superintendent of Elk City Public Schools, replacing his mentor, Jerry Kirk. While superintendent at Elk City, Joe was just one of 50 superintendents across the United States to participate in a month-long international study mission to the then-Soviet Union. Joe returned to Oklahoma State University and, in 1974, completed his Doctorate in Education.
In 1975, after a long career in secondary public education, Joe assumed the presidency of Carl Albert State College (CASC) in Poteau, Okla. At that time, CASC consisted of two single buildings. Today, CASC has dual campuses in Poteau and Sallisaw, over 24 classroom buildings, student housing facilities, and a strong academic environment, providing educational opportunities for all.
Joe served as one of Speaker Carl Albert's trusted friends from home and, during Joe's presidency, hosted gatherings at CASC for the great names of both parties - Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush. Along with local leaders, he established and built the CASC Foundation, which today has a ten million dollar fund for the enrichment of CASC students. He served as chairman of the Council of Oklahoma's College and University Presidents for two terms. Throughout his life, Dr. White served on many Boards and is a member of three Oklahoma Hall of Fame organizations. Upon Dr. White's retirement from CASC in 2007, he and Melba Sue relocated to Edmond, Okla., to be near their grandchildren. That same year Dr. White created White Energy, LLC, which has mineral interest in fourteen (14) Oklahoma counties.
Dr. White is survived by his two sons, Vance King White of Los Angeles, Calif. and Joe Ellis White, Jr. of Edmond, Okla. Also surviving Dr. White are his five grandchildren, Joe Ellis White III, Jackson Barnes White, Jade Holly White, Jule Mechelle White, and Jilian Nicole White, all of Edmond and Oklahoma City.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Charlie and Cleo White, his wife, Melba Sue White, and his daughter-in-law, Kimberly Barnes White.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at Santa Fe Presbyterian Church, 1603 N. Santa Fe Ave., Edmond, OK. Dr. White will be laid to rest at a private ceremony at the Alex Cemetery next to his wife and parents.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Dr. Joe E. and Melba Sue White Academic Scholarship Fund at Carl Albert State College.
Published on June 1, 2018