James H. ‘Jim’ White, 83, Past President and Fellow of the St. Andrews Society
WILLIAMSBURG – James H. “Jim” White, 83, passed away on Thursday, April 22, 2021, surrounded by his family. He lived a life full of love, service and generosity of spirit.
Jim was born August 12, 1937 in Mineral Wells, Texas. After graduating from Walter Williams High School in Burlington, North Carolina, where he was an Eagle Scout and a member of DeMolay, he joined the Virginia Tech Cadet Corps and earned a commission as a deputy lieutenant in the US Army Reserve.
While working a summer college job at a church camp in North Carolina, he met his soul mate, Joyce Alexander White. Jim and Joyce were married on August 27, 1960 at Central Baptist Church in Norfolk, where Joyce’s father, Theron Alexander, was the prime minister. After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1960, Jim taught physics and electronics at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth for a year, during which time his daughter Elizabeth White was born.
Jim then entered the military, joining the 2nd Armored Division (Signal Corps), which was airlifted to Germany as part of Operation Big Lift. While stationed in Germany, Jim’s daughter, Wendelin White Silliman (Wendy), was born. Meanwhile, Jim received a citation for his work as an electronic warfare officer for the entire US military, in Europe.
In 1968 Jim left the military as a captain to work in the public service for Naval Electronic Systems Command in Portsmouth. Then in 1972 Jim and his family moved into the house they built at Kingspoint in Williamsburg, and Jim began working as an electronics engineer for Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, later promoted to division head of the Acquisition division for New Mines, which required many trips. worldwide. During his stay he designed naval transmitter sites that were used in Canada, Iceland, Scotland, the Azores, Spain, Italy and Sicily. Drawing on his knowledge gained during his military service, he also designed a high power antenna for the Navy.
He helped design the communications system used in the Congressional Bunker at the Greenbrier in West Virginia and participated in a wide range of urgent military security situations around the world. When the Russians searched an American ship in the Black Sea, he led a team sent to the ship to ensure the safety of the ship and the military on board.
His career culminated with his 11-year appointment as the US Navy’s Electronic Security Officer and his representation of US electronic warfare interests, three times leading the US Delegation to NATO for Security in Brussels. This appointment required a move to Arlington, although they often return to Williamsburg. Jim switched to a private defense contractor, but kept the same duties as his job in the public service.
Jim and Joyce attended Bruton Parish Church, where they taught Sunday School and led the youth group (which increased tenfold in size) and Jim served in the sacristy, including as senior principal. He celebrated his Scottish heritage as a former president and fellow of the St. Andrews Society, where he and Joyce helped organize and attend events such as Burns Night and the Allison McCall Charity Golf Tournament, which raised over $ 11,000 for the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in memory of his niece, Allison McCall. He was proud to receive the “Scotsman of the Year” award.
Jim’s love for science included a lifelong passion for photography and cameras. He made his way through college taking professional photographs and operating a small camera business that he would later turn into a profitable business selling and repairing photographic equipment. The house he and Joyce built in Kingspoint included a camera workshop and a darkroom.
Jim has been active throughout his adult life. He helped coach the Navy tennis team while in Northern Virginia and played tennis until he was 70. He also took yoga classes with Joyce and continued after her death. The year he turned 80, Jim became his daughter Elizabeth’s oldest and most enthusiastic yoga student, attending the yoga classes she taught at Studio South.
Jim and Joyce loved celebrating Christmas. Upon retirement, they started a tradition of decorating a Christmas tree for each of their two children and five grandchildren, which eventually resulted in a total of 10 Christmas trees decorated throughout their home each year. After Joyce’s death in 2013, Jim continued this “Festival of Trees,” which was featured in Williamsburg Neighbor Magazine in 2019.
He was predeceased by his wife, Joyce, who died in 2013.
He is survived by his two daughters, Elizabeth L. White (Dean) of Williamsburg, Virginia and Wendelin White Silliman (Todd) of Atlanta, Georgia; five grandchildren, Ashley Butler, Alexa Yowell, Sarah Short, Alexander Silliman and Margaret Silliman; great-granddaughter, Blair Yowell (born on her birthday); and her sister, Jeanette Lou White Ayers.
Husband, father, grandfather, public servant, patriot, leader and loving friend, Jim’s life touched so many people in Williamsburg and other communities. A celebration of his life will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, in the courtyard of the parish church of Bruton. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and considerations, a family-only reception will be held after the ceremony.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking anyone who would like to make a donation in Jim’s memory to do so at Bruton Parish Church, PO Box 3520, Williamsburg, VA 23187-3520; or Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg, 4445 Powhatan Parkway, Williamsburg, VA 23188.
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