Ex-WC coach John White dies at age 75

Published 12:40 am Saturday, February 28, 2015

John White, who as coach led Warren Central’s boys basketball program to its greatest heights and as athletics director guided all of the Vicksburg Warren School District’s programs through one of their most difficult eras, died Friday in Philadelphia.

Donny Fuller, a former Warren Central girls basketball coach and close friend of White, said the death came after a long illness exacerbated by a recent case of pneumonia. White was 75.

“Mississippi athletics as a whole has lost a very true ally in John White. He was a supporter of the Vicksburg Warren School District and Choctaw Central. He was a friend to a lot of coaches and officials in Mississippi,” Fuller said.

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White was a native of Neshoba County and graduated from Philadelphia High School in 1959. He moved to Warren County and took a job as the boys basketball coach at Redwood High School in 1964. Warren Central opened the following year and White became the new school’s first basketball coach.

John White

John White

White posted a 242-97 record in 10 seasons with the Vikings. He won three conference championships, a South State title, a third-place finish in the MHSAA Class 5A tournament in 1973 and a runner-up finish in 1974. Warren Central has not been back to the state tournament in Jackson since then.

White stepped down in 1975 and never coached again. Despite his relatively short tenure on the bench, White was inducted to the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame last summer. Fuller, who got his start as a student assistant under White and worked for him nearly two decades later as WC’s girls’ head coach, was also inducted in the same hall of fame class.

After coaching, White spent 10 years as an assistant principal at Warren Central and then another 10 as the Vicksburg Warren School District’s athletics director. In the latter position, where he worked from 1985-96, he saw the school district through the difficult period of consolidation.

The rivalry and tension between Warren Central and Vicksburg High School was thick at the time. White’s personality, professionalism and sense of fairness, however, helped keep things running smoothly.

“He just didn’t take things personally,” said Peter Pikul, who worked at Warren Central and Warren Central Junior High from 1989-95. “He saw the big picture. He saw the long-range plans with consolidation and was able to smooth a lot of ruffled feathers.”

Fuller said that despite White’s deep ties to Warren Central, he went out of his way to be fair to both schools and not show any favoritism.

“He did all he could to be fair to both sides. He made sure both schools got new tracks and were able to host meets,” Fuller said. “He went and had a shirt made that was half green and half red and wore it around. Little things like that.”

White returned to east Mississippi in 1996 to become the principal at Choctaw Central, and spent another decade in that position before retiring. He never forgot his strong ties to Warren County, though. Among his pallbearers are Fuller, Pikul, former Warren Central football player Larry Erves and longtime Warren Central football coaches Robert Morgan and Rick Graham.

“He was a very special individual to me. He was like a second father to me,” Fuller said.

John is survived by his wife, Gay Nell Rea White; his daughters Gay La Jeanne (Gayla) Cagle (Rob) and Shawn Renae White (Roger); and his son John Norris White, Jr. (Johnny). His legacy also includes three grandchildren: Alayna La Jeanne and Jared Rea Cagle and Jade Star Mancastroppa. The youngest of a close-knit set of siblings, John is also survived by Joe White, Sue Chadwick, Ouida Williams, and Hugh White.

Pallbearers are Coach Walter (TLoyde) Wilson, Coach Robert Morgan, Ken Grogan, Coach Donny Fuller, Bill Lea, Coach Rick Graham, Peter Pikul, Ted Long and Larry Erves.

Visitation is Sunday, March 1 at McClain-Hays Funeral Home in Philadelphia. The funeral is at 3 p.m. Sunday at McClain-Hays, and interment will be at Eastlawn Cemetery in Philadelphia.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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