Obituary of Dr. Jack Okey White
Dr. Jack Okey White, born on January 19, 1927 in Keystone, West Virginia, passed away peacefully December 15, 2019 in Jacksonville, FL after several years of declining heath. He was predeceased by his wife of 62 years, JoAnn O’Dell White deceased November 28, 2012, his brother, Flight Officer Frederick Fox White, USAAC, a B-26 pilot shot down and perished March 24, 1945, and a sister June White Trump, February, 18, 1994. Dr. White is survived by his sons, Jon Frederick White, II (Cheryl) of Mars Hill, NC and Reginald Fox White (Arleene) of St Augustine, FL. He was the proud grandfather of Ashley, Joshua, Michael Jon, Scott, Ben and Daniel and great grandfather of Sova, Mica, Jasper, Rowan, Leah, Nora and Amelia. He received his bachelor’s degree from Concord (WVA) College, his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his doctorate from New York University. He studied trumpet under Dr. Charles Colin and Dr. Renold O. Schilke. White served in the U. S. Air Force Band, Units 725 and 776, and directed the Air Force Jazz Ensemble. Dr. White was a musician’s musician. He had a singular and amazing ability to motivate and inspire musicians (as well as his students) to perform beyond even their own highest expectations, always with “a little pepper!” in a booming voice that many claimed could be heard three football fields away. It’s been said he formed his first band while in the eighth grade in Keystone, WV. Dr. White mentored thousands of his students and fellow musicians as director at Lebanon (VA) High School (1950-’54), George Wythe (VA) High School (1954-’59), Cary (NC) High school (1959-’62--also founder of Cary Band Day), Elon (NC) College, now University, (1962- ‘86), Wytheville (VA) Community college in his semi-retired years and finally as the founder/conductor of the Wytheville (VA) Community Band. He was truly "THE Music Man” wherever he conducted, beloved by generations of high school/college students as well as the community citizens anyplace where he and JoAnn lived. Throughout his career, White arranged music for numerous musical groups and was in demand as an adjudicator and clinician, judging marching bands and music festivals throughout the Southeast. He was a member of the College Band Directors Association, the National Band Association, and the American Federation of Musicians, New York City, Local 802. Well known in the music world, White was well-acquainted with giants widely known in the jazz community including Vincent Bach, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Manny Klein, Wynton Marsalis, Donald O’Connor, Doc Severinsen and Clark Terry. Famed for his energy and frequent admonitions such as “Schlopp!,” ‘”Crazy!, “Umbriago,” “Exaggerate!” and last but not least, “…Take it at H….and go to L!,” White joined the Elon College (now University) music faculty in 1962. Under his baton, “The Showband of the Carolinas” quickly achieved a wide reputation for innovative and entertaining football half time shows featuring such creations as the ‘Flying E Formation’ and the snappy “Thank You Maneuver.’ Dr. White organized the internationally-known ‘Emanons of Elon’ jazz ensemble and directed 23 annual tours of east coast high schools in addition to military installations from Puerto Rico to Germany. In 1971 The Emanons were named an “All American Entertainment Troupe” by the United States Armed Forces. N. C. Governor Robert Scott named the members of The Emanons as “Good Will Ambassadors,” an honor granted by the State of North Carolina in 1972. Two of the international tours, sanctioned by the U. S. Department of State, featured the Emanons as headliners at the Grand Ball of Luxembourg playing for the Duke and Dutchess of Luxembourg. An innovative educator, dedicated mentor and tireless performer, White was recognized as Elon’s Outstanding Professor in 1968 and 1969. His watchwords were “Musicians must not only perform music, they must learn to entertain.” Upon his retirement in 1986, he was named Professor of Music Emeritus. In 1995, he was awarded the prestigious Elon University Medallion. In 2012 he was named Band Director Emeritus. A “Celebration of Life” will be held at a later date in the Snyder Auditorium on the campus of Wytheville Community College, Wytheville, VA. There will be a service and a program with the opportunity for attendees to share memories, recollections and amusing stories surrounding the life of Dr. White. Plans are underway to seek donations for an appropriate long term memorial honoring Dr. White and this will be announced at the future Celebration of Life Service.