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Mark Wells White

In office
January 18, 1983 – January 20, 1987
Lieutenant William P. Hobby, Jr.
Preceded by William Perry "Bill" Clements, Jr.
Succeeded by William Perry "Bill" Clements, Jr.

Born March 17, 1940 (1940-03-17) (age 69)
Longview, Texas
Political party Democratic
Profession Lawyer

Mark Wells White (born March 17, 1940) is an American lawyer, who served as the 43rd Governor of Texas from 1983-1987.


Born in Henderson, Texas, in Rusk County, White attended Baylor University in Waco, and was a member of the prestigious Tryon Coterie Club, now Phi Delta Theta (Texas Lambda Chapter) at Baylor. He graduated with a law degree in 1965. After spending time practicing law in a private practice in Houston (Harris County), White served as the state's assistant attorney general. In 1969, White was appointed as Texas secretary of state under Governor Dolph Briscoe.

White served as secretary of state until 1977, when he resigned to run for state attorney general, where he served until 1983. In the 1978 general election, White defeated the Republican choice, James A. Baker, III, a Houston lawyer, businessman, and power broker affiliated with the Bushes of Houston. As the state's chief enforcement officer, he co-chaired the Federal-State Enforcement Coordinating Committee and was a member of the Governor's Organized Crime Prevention Council. On the national level, he was elected Chairman of the Southern Conference of Attorneys General in May of 1981.

White ran for governor in 1982 against incumbent Bill Clements, Texas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He defeated Clements over concerns about the governor's poor economic numbers and lack of support from minority groups (54% to 46%). As the state's forty-third chief executive from January 18, 1983 to January 20, 1987, White worked to "preserve and enhance... resources so that Texas would not fall back, but go forward as a state of the future." His main concerns were the economy and education. By focusing on Texas' resources, White was able to work on many problems facing the state in the early 1980s. The Texas economy during the early and mid 1980s were volatile. The price of oil declined and pushed Texas into a recession. This led Governor White to "lay the groundwork for a more diversified economy--one less reliant upon the...swings of a single industry." Governor White sought to improve education, transportation, water resources, law enforcement, and taxes to lure new industry to Texas. Education was an essential factor for White. When he took office, Texas was ranked as one of the lowest performing states for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) also in teachers' salaries. After taking office, White immediately appointed a committee on Public Education, called a special session of the legislature in 1984, and worked with lawmakers to pass the Educational Opportunity Act (EOA). The EOA was committed to building the finest public education system in the country. Through White's work, Texas saw the desired results. SAT scores increased by twelve points, Texas first graders improved in statewide tests and teacher salaries increased by $5,000. By focusing on education, White was able to make Texas a "state of the future" with regard to its most important resource, its children. Through his diligent work as Governor of Texas, many of the problems of the present and future were alleviated. However, four years later, White was defeated by Clements, who opted for a second, nonconsecutive term. Some believe that the wildly unpopular "no-pass, no-play" policies of the White administration, which prohibited any high school student athletes from participating in varsity sports if they were failing any single element of their overall class load, sealed the doom of a second term.

White served as governor during Texas' sesquicentennial in 1986 and oversaw a number of the celebrations concerning that anniversary. He also made a cameo appearance in the popular CBS drama series Dallas. Following his departure from office, White worked for the law firm Keck, Mahin & Cate. White attempted to run for governor again in 1990, but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ann Richards, who later went on to win the general election.

White, who practices law, is chairman of the board for the Houston Independent School District Foundation, a non-profit organization which supports the public schools. In recent years, White endorsed Houston City Council candidate Jolanda Jones in the 2003 and 2007 city elections; the latter endorsement led to winning an at-large seat.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
V. Larry Teaver, Jr.
Secretary of State of Texas
Succeeded by
George Strake, Jr.
Preceded by
Bill Clements (first time)
Governor of Texas
Succeeded by
Bill Clements (second time)
Legal offices
Preceded by
John L. Hill, Jr.
Texas Attorney General
Succeeded by
Jim Mattox


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