GREY OAKS: Ron White has genuine love for Vicksburg

Published 11:00 am Friday, March 29, 2019

Antiques, art and antebellum homes fascinated Ron White at an early age. So much so, he remembers his first visit to the historical River City.

“My parents brought me to Vicksburg when I was just 10 years old and the visit made such an impression on me, it lasted a lifetime,” White said.

Hence, after living in several other areas across the country, White decided to make his way back to the city that had captivated him at a tender age and he moved to Vicksburg.

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To showcase the collections he amassed through the years, he purchased Grey Oaks Plantation as his “forever” home, he said.

Located on Rifle Range Road, the stately mansion was built by Michael Morrissey for his wife, Elizabeth.

“Elizabeth wanted a house that looked like Tara,” White said, and to fulfill her dreams, her husband purchased Anchuka, a home that was on the outskirts of Port Gibson.

Originally constructed in the Greek Revival style, the house in Port Gibson was dismantled and the salvageable architectural pieces — which included pier mirrors, rolled glass windows, a marble mantel, sterling silver door knobs and chandeliers — were incorporated into Grey Oaks.

Renowned architect James T. Canizaro designed the Vicksburg home for the Morrisseys in the Federal style, White said.

Built in the late 1930s, the house sits on five acres and has three levels, including a fully finished basement.

White purchased the property in 2015. In addition to making Grey Oaks his home, he also offers it for weddings and special events. It is open for tours by appointment.

“One of the ways I enjoy sharing this house is with weddings and receptions,” he said.

White grew up in Hamburg, Ark.

“My father managed the city water system and my mother was an archaeologist and artist,” he said.

White graduated from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia Ark., in 1975 with a degree in marketing.

He continued living in Magnolia following graduation, however. Instead of seeking out a job in the marketing field, he decided to become a self-employed interior designer.

“While I was there I did a lot of historical renovations and restorations,” he said.

In 1997, White moved to Atlanta and opened Ron White Interiors.

“I also had a retail store called The Bronze Monkey, and it was at the square in Marietta, Ga.,” White said.

While living in Atlanta, he was featured in “Street of Dreams,” which was a national program that highlighted luxury homes.

White remained in Atlanta for four years before relocating to Pensacola, Fla. There he opened a retail store in the downtown area and had a segment on a Mobile, Ala., NBC television station.

In 2006, White closed this retail store so he could take care of his aging parents.

White said he has had the opportunity to have clients from all over the U.S. and his designs have been featured in publications including “Southern Living,” “Florida Design Magazine” and “Women’s World Magazine.”

Now, after spending years designing others’ homes, White said he’s happy to come home to his home — Grey Oaks — and is enjoying every inch of the space, especially the back patio.

“I like to come out here in the morning and have my coffee,” he said.

Grey Oaks exudes an impressive exterior by any standard with its stark white façade and towering pillars.

And while passersby can appreciate the curb appeal of the stately home, its interior is stunning with the collections White has amassed.

“My friends laugh and say, ‘Everything in your house has a story,’ and that’s true,” White said, “because everything that is in this house is part of my journey.”

To prove this notion, White pointed out a silver water server in the entryway of his home.

“When I was growing up in Hamburg, Ark., there was a lady, Mrs. Floie Sawyer, who was one of my Sunday school teachers. She had one of these in her entrance hall, and I remember as a little boy, she would let me come to her house and serve water from it,” White said. “And since then it had always been an aspiration of mine to have a silver water server in my entrance hall just like Mrs. Floyd Sawyer.

“And now it has come to pass,” White laughed.

Also in the entryway is a massive painting of White.

This is a portrait of me when I was about 45 years old, and it was done by New York artist Nathalie Vogel,” White said.

It is painted in the style of a John Singer Sargent portrait, he said, and added Vogel takes a historic portrait and puts your features into to it.

White said he communicated with the artist throughout the process, but one thing the pair did not discuss about the commissioned portrait was its size.

“We did not discuss what size the painting would be and when it arrived, this is what I received,” he said, pointing to a portrait that is more than seven feet tall.

“So I guess Grey Oaks knew I was coming,” White said, “Because this is the first time it has been hung in my house.”

The height of Gray Oaks’ ceilings on the main level are 14 feet. The living space includes a formal dining room, a parlor, study, kitchen and bedroom.

The upper level of the home has three bedrooms, bathrooms and a library.

White’s collectibles, which span generations and genres, are throughout the entirety of the house.

From the Victorian guest bedroom to a collection of oil paintings by New Orleans artist Paul De la Fille, the home is not only rich in history, it is also a reflection of its owner.

“My life has been a charmed life,” White said, “And my theory is to use everything I have and to enjoy it and share it with others.”

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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