The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

The Honorable Jesse White

Share on Social Media

Information about The Honorable Jesse White

Profile image of The Honorable Jesse White

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
State Government Appointee

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
6/23/1934
Birth Location:
Alton, Illinois

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
State Government Appointee

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
6/23/1934
Birth Location:
Alton
See how The Honorable Jesse White is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

State government appointee Jesse White was born on June 23, 1934 in Alton, Illinois. In 1943, he moved to Chicago with his parents, where he attended Schiller Elementary School. He went on to attend Waller High School, where he was active in school athletics, being named All-City in basketball and baseball. He also excelled at tumbling and hoped to play professional baseball after graduation, fielding offers from the St. Louis Browns and the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, White’s father insisted that he first go to college. White enrolled at Alabama State College, majoring in physical education. He also played baseball and basketball, earning All-Conference honors in both sports.

Upon graduation, White signed with the Chicago Cubs organization. However, four days before leaving for spring training, he was drafted by the United States Army, where he attended jump school and was trained as a paratrooper. White was soon assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. After his discharge in 1959, White returned to Chicago, where he finally began his professional baseball career, playing for several seasons with the Chicago Cubs organization.

Off-season, White also worked as a physical education instructor at Schiller Elementary School, the school that he attended as a child, as well as with the Chicago Park District. In December 1959, White was asked to organize a gym show at the Rockwell Garden Housing Project. This show laid the foundation for what would become known worldwide as the Jesse White Tumbling Team. For over forty years, the Jesse White Tumbling Team has served as a positive alternative for over 5,000 underprivileged Chicago children.

As White continued to juggle teaching and tumbling, he was approached to run for a seat in the state legislature, replacing Robert Thompson, who was retiring. In 1974, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where he served on the Committees on Aging, Elementary & Secondary Education, Public Utilities, and chaired the Committee on Children and Human Services. Among the bills proposed by White in the House was the Good Samaritan Bill, which allowed hotels to offer leftover food to soup kitchens without threat of liability.

With the exception of the 1977-79 term, White served in the Illinois General Assembly until 1992 when he was elected Cook County Recorder of Deeds. In 1996, he was reelected to the same office and served until 1998, when he made history by being the first African American elected Secretary of State for Illinois. The Secretary of State’s office is responsible for issuing license plates and titles, maintaining driver records and overseeing the State Library, State Archives and the organ and tissue donor program.

The father of two daughters, White has had a varied career and a strong impact both inside and outside the world of politics.

White was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 3, 2001.

See how The Honorable Jesse White is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Jesse White narrates his photographs
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Jesse White's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jesse White describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jesse White describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jesse White describes his childhood in Alton, Illinois and Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jesse White talks about the diversity of Chicago's Near North Side
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jesse White shares memories of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jesse White describes his childhood personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jesse White remembers the men who mentored him
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jesse White talks about enrolling in Alabama State University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jesse White remembers his first encounter with segregation in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jesse White talks about athletics at Alabama State University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jesse White describes his experience at Alabama State University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jesse White remembers travelling to receive his diploma from Alabama State University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jesse White describes his service in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jesse White describes the success of the Jesse White Tumbling Team
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Jesse White talks about working three jobs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Jesse White talks about beginning his political career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Jesse White talks about getting sponsors for the Jesse White Tumbling Team
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Jesse White recounts his experience as a professional baseball player
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jesse White talks about the discrimination he faced while playing baseball in Plainview, Texas
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jesse White talks about the discrimination he faced while playing baseball in San Antonio, Texas
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jesse White remembers being attacked by a white man in Duluth, Minnesota, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jesse White remembers being attacked by a white man in Duluth, Minnesota, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jesse White recounts the baseball teams he played for between 1959 and 1968
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jesse White describes balancing playing baseball, teaching, and working for the Chicago Park District
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jesse White discusses his transition into politics
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jesse White talks about finding the strength to be a politician
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Jesse White describes the Illinois General Assembly
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Jesse White describes the importance of the Illinois General Assembly
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Jesse White reflects on his achievements as an Illinois State Representative
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jesse White discusses his reputation in the Illinois General Assembly
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jesse White discusses becoming Cook County Recorder of Deeds
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jesse White discusses becoming Illinois Secretary of State
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jesse White talks about the challenges of being Illinois Secretary of State
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jesse White describes his accomplishments as Illinois Secretary of State, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jesse White describes his accomplishments as Illinois Secretary of State, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jesse White talks about being Illinois Secretary of State
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jesse White talks about his accomplishments
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Jesse White discusses his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Jesse White talks about the importance of sports
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Jesse White talks about how to become involved in politics
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jesse White reflects upon his career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jesse White reflects upon the key ingredients for success
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jesse White discusses what "Pioneers in the Struggle" means to him
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jesse White reflects upon his legacy