Saturday, August 8, 2020

Jim White: Black leaders matter

Latest articles


Seeking Redemption: Former Lincoln City Mayor opens thrift store

Former Lincoln City Mayor Don Williams has opened a charity-funding thrift store to fill a void Goodwill created upon closing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Black Belt teaches women’s self-defense in ‘dangerous’ Lincoln City

As a female in one of Oregon’s most dangerous cities, Tiffany Richards would be the wrong woman to pick on in an empty parking lot — one of the places where women are often assaulted.

Lincoln County Jail inmates to receive free tablets with no internet

Lincoln County Jail staff will have a new tool to supervise inmates and help them gain basic life skills with a new tablet program designed to reward good study habits and keep offenders out of custody.

Coast Guard rescues injured fisherman 150 miles off Newport shore

The Coast Guard medevaced an injured fisherman Tuesday from a 63-foot commercial fishing boat operating about 150 miles offshore from Yaquina Bay, Oregon.

Bridge work will close West Devils Lake Road

A section of NE West Devils Lake Road will be partially, then fully shutdown while Stayton-based contractor, HP Civil Inc., replaces a bridge, causing detours to Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital.

COVID-19 outbreak at Hillside Place senior community

Lincoln County Public Health and Hillside Place of Lincoln City announced today the results of testing of all staff and residents done on Friday.

Students at Samaritan Early Learning Center enjoy wealth of new books

The young readers at Samaritan Early Learning Center have a newly expanded library, thanks to a $1,700 grant from the Walter R. Behrens Foundation, which funds charitable, literary and educational enrichment opportunities in North Lincoln County.

OSP identifies deceased female found near Otter Rock

Oregon State Police issued a news release at 2:11 p.m. July 31, identifying the deceased female found on the beach near Otter Rock

Joe the Sea Lion getting a new coat

Concerned citizens who were worried about Nelcott's Joe the Sea Lion being the target of vandals can rest easy as the City of Lincoln City is in the process of restoring the statue.

Driver who crashed into house in stable condition

The driver of a car that crashed into a house on NW Jetty Thursday is listed in stable condition according to Legacy Emanuel Hospital staff in Portland. 

Related articles

James White Depoe Bay
Former Depoe Bay mayor Jim White broke race barriers everywhere he went in life, often becoming the first black through the door. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

DEPOE BAY — Nobody bothered to call Jim White.

When all Hell broke loose and county commissioners Jacobson, Hunt and Hall needed a leader of color to help navigate volatile racial politics, the phone was silent at the White house in a pleasant Depoe Bay suburb. Outside, Lincoln County was awash in a typhoon of mortifying nationwide publicity over a couple of shocking events involving a self-inflicted face mask fiasco and another showcasing Russian Nazis.

Jim White shook his head as if he’d seen it all before. A retired soldier, policeman and mayor, White has been shattering race barriers for much of his 76 years. In 2004, he was elected as the first black mayor of Depoe Bay — a city that is 94 percent white, according to U.S. Census data. But then, he was often the first black man through the door. Had bigwigs called, here’s what they would have discovered:

“I’ve made a little history in my own way,” reflected White, the first black police officer hired by Lincoln City and later the first black president of the Oregon Mayor’s Association. “It hasn’t been easy. America has always been a racist country. Oregon has a racist past. I’m sorry it took a black man being killed to really bring it to the forefront, but this black movement should have happened many, many years ago. Martin Luther King tried and he brought some things to bear before he lost his life. Someone recently made a comment that ‘blacks have always loved America, but America has never loved the blacks.’ It’s true.”

Yet White ascended, anyway, fulfilling two careers of distinguished public service in the military and law enforcement before realizing unmatched political success in his hometown. He is recalled fondly by many longtime residents for reconciling a community that was divided by petty grievances and tyrannical committees.

“He had a trained mind from being in the military and the police,” reflected Jerome Grant, a Depoe Bay businessman and city councilor who had an early scrape with Mayor White over a zoning issue but grew to call him a friend as the years passed. “He was disciplined and had the image to go along with it. He ran city hall better than anybody since I came here 30 years ago.”

After hearing that a city councilor made some outlandish remarks at a meeting — “All we need is a basketball hoop and a crack dealer,” recalled White — he attended the next meeting and scolded the offensive official. When she resigned and left town, he applied for the seat and was appointed, running for mayor at the next election.

His credo then would illuminate today’s elected class: “I want to see the citizens respect their government once again,” White says in an old news clipping. “We can win that respect by making decisions that are best for the community.”

Jim White’s credo then would illuminate today’s elected class: “I want to see the citizens respect their government once again.”

Soon after becoming mayor, a city employee explained to White, “Because this is the way it’s always been done.” White’s famous charm evaporated like a cop at a crime scene as he set the tone for a new administration. “I told her, I don’t want those words to ever come out of your mouth again.”

What can be learned from a man like this? A native of Brooklyn who journeyed into the Deep South as a boy of six to witness and suffer the indignities of segregation, White endured the barefaced racism of the 1950s and defied the bigotry of a 1960s military.

“When I was young I traveled from New York to North Carolina every year to visit family, changing from the Greyhound to Continental Trailways in Baltimore, where I had to ride in the back of the bus and use separate restrooms,” he remembered. “While the other passengers took their dinner in a nice restaurant, I had to order my meal at the counter and take it back to the bus.”

It was the time of lynching, Klan rallies and fear for the wide-eyed child.

“I was terrified,” he admitted while revealing a defiant humor that has carried him through all the chapters of his life. “The hilarious thing is that when I went to the movies with my cousins, blacks had to sit in the balconies where we had the best view and could drop popcorn on the white kids below.”

At 17, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1960, the senior noncoms and nearly all officers were white, and the arduous boot camp at Parris Island seemed built to keep it that way.

“Our white drill instructor had a nickname for me,” recalled White, who would go on to serve with distinction in Vietnam. “He’d say, ‘Spook, report to the hatch,’ which was his room in the barracks. Every time he’d punch me in the gut as hard as he could. When I graduated he took me aside and said the USMC is the most prejudiced outfit there is, but if I could make it here I could make it anywhere.”

The backhanded compliment resounded with White, who went from military policeman to beat cop after his honorable discharge. He became the first black police officer on the Franklin, Virginia, roster, and the first at the Corvallis, Ore., police department. In 1992, Chief Mike Holden lured him to Lincoln City, where White was a respected officer and department spokesman until he retired in 1998.

White’s model career in law enforcement could go far to inform hapless lawmakers faced with riots and calls to “reimagine” the police with a budget cleaver, if they’d care to listen. Commissioners, raw from one mistake after another during these tense times, claimed they were getting advice from “the leadership from our communities of color,” but declined to reveal who they were while lecturing you for asking.

I say, call Jim White. His story about race is compelling and frank, the lessons practical and his vision uplifting: Stop the rioting and burning, respect your police because 95 percent of them are God-sent, and stand together to end racism. And that face mask thing? “What’s good for whites is good for all colors,” he said of the county’s haywire pandemic policy.

“I think this movement is going to change a lot of things,” he figured, predicting a new American understanding when the smoke settles. “In every war, blacks have fought for this country and still came home as second-class citizens. Enough is enough. People are waking up to that. What I love seeing is young blacks and young whites coming together, saying all lives matter.”

- Advertisement -
Rick Beasley
Rick Beasley
Rick Beasley is a simple writer who collects sniper rifles for a hobby.


The best job they ever had

A mysterious office to most voters, county commissioners rarely claim headlines as they render humdrum decisions that mainly affect rural residents but also span the divide between countryside and urban jurisdictions, such as the jail, welfare and public health.

Most popular

Fire strikes historic Otis Cafe on Independence Day

North Lincoln Fire Rescue units swarmed the Otis Cafe shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday to combat a fully involved fire at the iconic restaurant.

Highway 101 hole prompts ODOT to call in geologists

Oregon Department of Transportation officials have called in geologists Thursday to take core samples of a hole on southbound Highway 101 in Otis.

Local men face drug, weapons charges following ATF search and arrest raid

Two Lincoln City men and a Cloverdale resident were charged Wednesday after Special Agents from the ATF Seattle Field Division executed multiple federal search and arrest warrants in Lincoln City.

Lincoln City ‘lockdown protesters’ on Highway 101

A group of people lined Highway 101 in Lincoln City Wednesday to display signs with different messages in protest of Governor Kate Brown's Executive Order and other actions which shut down Oregon amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Carjacking in Otis: Three arrested, one ‘armed and dangerous’ still at large

A Lincoln County Sheriff's Office investigation has led to the arrest of three individuals surrounding a carjacking in Otis Monday night and a fourth suspect remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.

Lincoln City closes lodging with unanimous vote

Lincoln City will join other cities in Lincoln County who have been working to draft a joint declaration ordering lodging to close.


  1. In 1996, Jim White and I put together Evening Edition, a Blues and R&B sextet that performed around the City and County … We were working at the Convention Center at Chinook Winds and James Brown and the Famous Flames were in the Main Room. When they were done, the band came upstairs and played with us! We blew the upstairs circuits… !!

  2. Fabulous story about a fabulous man that I have the honor to call a friend. I’d heard so much about him, and found it difficult to believe then low and behold who did appear but the infamous Jim White not just the legend but truly a wonderful man.

  3. Officer White was/is a very nice man. I am thankful, that I only knew him as a patron and friend……and not because of his needed services”. He was so nice and Always smiling. I owned a business, SUNSHINE and COMPANY and he was a customer of mine. Just a great guy…..Chris


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisements -