Born in Elmira, New York, GEORGE WHITE moved with his family as a small child to Titusville, Pennsylvania, where he received his elementary and high school education. He went on to graduate from Princeton University in 1895. White worked in a lumber camp, as a roustabout in the oilfields of northwestern Pennsylvania, as a school teacher, and as a miner in the Klondike region of Alaska. He moved to Ohio in 1902, settling in Marietta and entering the oil business in Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. He was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1905 to 1908 and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1915 and again from 1917 to 1919. He was selected Democratic National Chairman in 1920 to manage former Ohio Governor James M. Cox’s presidential campaign. A decade later he won the Democratic gubernatorial primary and defeated incumbent Republican Myers Y. Cooper to become governor. Serving during the Great Depression, White focused on the economic crisis. He replaced real estate taxes—which he felt were borne disproportionately by the rural population—with excise taxes and a general retail sales tax of three percent. White also created a State Highway Patrol and established a system of liquor controls. Although he concurred with New Deal policies, he was not considered to be a New Dealer at heart and failed to secure Franklin D. Roosevelt’s endorsement for nomination to a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1934. After leaving office, he again sought nomination for the U.S. Senate but was opposed for a second time by New Dealers, leading him to support Wendell Willkie in the presidential campaign of 1940. He then withdrew from politics and devoted himself to his business affairs. He died in West Palm Beach, Florida at the age of eighty-one and was interred in Marietta, where he had lived when first settling in Ohio.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 41. New York: James T. White & Company.