Colonel William J. White


Colonel William Jeremiah White was born on April 1, 1844 in Uniontown, Ohio. His parents, John and Isabella Simms White, were natives of Culpepper County, Virginia, and came to Ohio in 1801.

In 1861, he enlisted in the Union Army as a private with B Company, 78th Regiment; Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Early on, he was chosen to be a member of the “mule cavalry”, which was a group of 50 men “selected for their fitness for special duty, or for any emergency that might arise, requiring courage and discretion.” Cited for his personal bravery and gallant conduct in an engagement with rebel forces in 1862, he was promoted to the staff of Major General Mortimer Leggett, remaining with that command through much of the war. He rose quickly through the ranks, serving with distinction until the end of the war.

In 1863, his horse was shot from under him in the early fighting to take Vicksburg. And later, as the six-week-long battle came to a close, then Captain White serving as liaison between Union and Confederate forces carried all communication between General Ullyses S. Grant and Confederate Lieutenant General John Pemberton until a surrender was secured from Pemberton’s forces.  Near the end of the war, he was promoted by President Lincoln to the rank of major by brevet for gallant and meritorious conduct. He is described in his enlistment papers as being 6’ 1/2” tall, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, a fair complexion, and a bookkeeper by trade. He was mustered out on May 20, 1866. 

He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in June of 1870, and in November married Miss Bertha A. Butterfield of Bucyrus, Ohio. They had four children:  Mira, William, Bertha, and Joseph. He held numerous teaching and administrative positions throughout his career in education, and served as superintendent of schools in Pana, Illinois, Springfield, Ohio, and eventually Dayton in 1888. He and his family lived at 627 North Avenue and 429 Grafton Avenue in Dayton View, which ironically came to be part of the school district of his namesake and our alma mater.

In 1898, he left his position as superintendent to fight in the Spanish-American War, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with the 3rd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Field Staff and Band. 

He was elected colonel of the 7th Regiment of the Ohio National Guard in 1885, serving for five years in that position. He was a 32nd Degree Mason, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and attended Grace Methodist Episcopal Church where he served as superintendent of its Sunday school for many years.

His last position, which he held until his death, was as Governor of the Central Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, now known as the Veterans’ Administration.

Colonel White died on November 28, 1920.  He is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.

Article written by Kathy Keefer Fink, ’65

Much of the information contained in this article came from The Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and of Montgomery County.



The Cougar's Creed


I believe in Colonel White High School, her tradition and ideals; I believe in honesty in everyday tasks and in faithfulness in duty; I believe in the joy that comes from worthwhile fun, generous comradeship, and loyal service to my school; I believe in modesty in victory and unconquerable spirit in defeat; I believe in keeping faith with myself, my neighbor, my father, my mother, my country, and my God.

The creed was printed on the back of the White House Pass.


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