A gregarious personality with a passion for education is how many remembered former Texas Governor Mark White, who passed away at age 77 this week.
White, a graduate from the Baylor University School of Law, served as Texas’ attorney general and secretary of state before he was elected governor in 1983. His tenure lasted for one term and went from 1983 to 1987.
During his tenure in the Governor’s Mansion, White, a Democrat, crusaded for education, based primarily on his mother, who was a first-grade teacher, according to his reports.
Some of White’s policies included limiting class sizes, increasing teacher pay, and requiring competency testing for teachers.
What is he most known for is instituting the first “No Pass, No Play” rule in Texas, a rule that remains in existence today.
The rule, which was part of White’s 1984 education reform bill, stirred controversy across the football-crazy Lone Star State.
Under No Pass, No Play, students at Texas public schools were required to pass all of their classes in order to be eligible for extracurricular activities and athletics.
Kyle resident Calvin Kirkham, a longtime coach at several schools, including Odessa Permian High, said White was “severely criticized” by many when No Pass, No Play was instituted.
However, he believes White was later the recipient of praise based on the success of his rule.
Kirkham, who had retired from coaching when White took office, said he had always emphasized academics over athletics even before No Pass, No Play.
He also understood that some coaches felt the rule was “a little unfair” as it was punitive, and created instability when it came to depth charts.
“It made you tow the line. There were coaches I knew where they thought football was the only thing in the world,” Kirkham said. “You needed to do both … it didn’t mean you have to be the best student, but you do have to do what teachers required of you.”
Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said White’s No Pass, No Play policy is one of the visible changes to Texas’ school system people still see.
It’s also part of his legacy that will continue to endure. Savoy said Hays CISD is an advocate for No Pass, No Play in all activities, which ranges from team sports and all UIL compeitions, which complement the academic experience.
Savoy added No Pass, No Play made sure academics were up-to-standard for those in extracurricular activities.
“The No Pass, No Play rule made it crystal clear that, first and foremost, students have to have a solid grasp of their academic content before they could participate in extracurriculars,” Savoy said.
Galen Zimmerman, Dripping Springs High athletic coordinator and head football coach, said following No Pass, No Play is an expectation at that campus.
“We want kids that are going to excel both in the classroom and on the field,” Zimmerman said.
Outside of the political realm, White was known as a kind person and a “wonderful big brother,” said Jane Kirkham, who during her studies at Baylor was a roommate to White’s sister, Betty.
Jane Kirkham said White was close to his sister, and that he and his family was “very gracious.”
She also said White was “very proud of Texas” and was a friend of public education.
“He was gracious and very friendly, accepting and inclusive,” Jane Kirkham said. “He also had a sense of humor.”
White frequently visited the scenic Hill Country vistas of western Hays County with his family.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff statewide in White’s honor.
White has been remembered by a handful of public officials on social media, including former President Bill Clinton.