No Pass No Play was not a very popular stand for any Governor but Mark White was passionate about Education and worked tirelessly during his tenure to ensure that Texas School System would not only improve but would set a standard for other states to follow. Pre-kindergarten for disadvantaged children, class sizes no larger than 22, merit pay for teachers, increased funding for poorer school districts and funding for full day kindergarten are, to this day, still hot buttons for many. But being raised by a teacher, the subject was close to his heart and he made it his legacy. He also appointed the first Hispanic woman, Elma Salinas Ender to serve as judge of a district court in Texas.
Ross Perot was a staunch Republican and a defender of the law and was quoted as saying, when asked about the No Pass No Play bill; “If the people of Texas want Friday night entertainment instead of education, let’s find out about it,” That and his idea that teachers should pass a competency test were enough to kill his bid for a second term. He was the last Democrat to serve as Governor of Texas.
He was born in Henderson, Texas on March 17, 1940. He attended Houston public schools and Baylor University, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1962 and a law degree from Baylor Law School in 1965. White worked briefly in a private legal practice in Houston before serving three years as an Assistant Attorney General In 1973, White was appointed as Texas secretary of state under Governor Dolph Briscoe and also served in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard.
White served as secretary of state until 1977, when he resigned to run for state attorney general, where he served until 1983. In the 1978 general election, White defeated the Republican choice, James A. Baker, III, a Houston lawyer, businessman, and power broker affiliated with the Bush family of Houston.
As the state’s chief enforcement officer, he co-chaired the Federal-State Enforcement Coordinating Committee and was a member of the Governor’s Organized Crime Prevention Council. On the national level, he was elected Chairman of the Southern Conference of Attorneys General in May 1981.
White also concentrated on economic development and the appointment of minorities to positions on his staff and in the government. Texas’ Sesquicentennial occurred in 1986, and the Governor attended and hosted a number of events. The Goddess of Liberty was restored and planning for Capitol restoration began during White’s term in office.
Mark White passed away Saturday August 5th after a long battle with kidney cancer. His funeral will be held Wednesday at Second Baptist Church in Houston. George W. Bush and Luci Baines Johnson will speak. He will then be transported to Austin where his body will lie in state from 12 to 3 in the Capitol Rotunda and laid to rest at Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
“Mark White cared deeply about Texas, and he devoted his life to making our state even better, particularly when it came to educating our children,” current Governor Greg Abbott said.