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Hugh Lawson White (August 19, 1881 – September 20, 1965) was an American politician from Mississippi and a member of the Democratic Party. He served two non-consecutive terms as Governor of Mississippi (1936–1940, 1952–1956).

Hugh White
Hugh L. White.jpg
45th and 51st Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 22, 1952 – January 17, 1956
LieutenantCarroll Gartin
Preceded byFielding L. Wright
Succeeded byJames P. Coleman
In office
January 21, 1936 – January 16, 1940
LieutenantJacob Buehler Snider
Preceded byMartin Sennet Conner
Succeeded byPaul B. Johnson Sr.
Personal details
Hugh Lawson White

(1881-08-19)August 19, 1881
near McComb, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedSeptember 20, 1965(1965-09-20) (aged 84)
McComb, Mississippi, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Judith Wier Sugg
EducationSoule's Business College
University of Mississippi, Oxford


White was born near McComb and attended the University of Mississippi where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall.

White was a wealthy industrialist and had been mayor of Columbia when he was first elected to the governorship, serving from 1926 until 1936. In 1936 he established the Balance Agriculture With Industry (BAWI) program that sought to develop an industrial base that matched the state's agricultural base. Under BAWI, advertising and incentives were deployed in hopes of enticing industries to locate to the state. Local governments could issue bonds to construct factories that could be leased to companies (who were also offered tax breaks).

After leaving office due to term limits, White was a delegate representing Mississippi at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. When Mayor of Minneapolis Hubert Humphrey urged the Democratic Party to "get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights", White and the other delegates from Mississippi and Alabama walked out of the convention. White and these delegates formed the Dixiecrat Party, nominating Strom Thurmond for President.

Inauguration at Mississippi State Capitol, January 22, 1952

In 1951, White won a second term, during which the issue of school segregation was a main issue. During the 1940s and early 1950s, federal courts made a series of decisions that indicated that the notion of "separate but equal" schools would soon be declared unconstitutional. Governor White and the state legislature prepared for that possibility by creating plans that sought to improve black schools. Among the proposals were increasing black teacher salaries to match white teachers' and building black schools on par with white schools. White called one hundred of the state's black leaders to a meeting at the capital to ask for their support of the plan. Much to his surprise, they overwhelmingly rejected his "voluntary" segregation plan and instead stated that they wanted only an integrated school system. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court made the famous Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared the practice of "separate but equal" to be unconstitutional.

On August 28, 1955, towards the end of White's term as governor, the infamous murder of Emmett Till took place. Three months earlier, an African American minister, George W. Lee, had been shot and killed by a group of white racists who drove by in an automobile. The vice president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership and an NAACP worker, Lee had been urging African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta to register and vote. The killer was never identified, partly because White refused to order an official investigation.


Hugh White State Park, a Mississippi state park, is named for him. The Keys Hill Historic District, Broad Street, Columbia, was added to the National Register of Historic Places, including White's former home, the Hugh Lawson White Mansion, for its association with him.[1]


  1. ^ "Mississippi - Marion County". National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved January 30, 2018.

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