We celebrate Michael’s life in the manner of Friends, with a silent
Meeting for Worship, in which anyone who feels prompted will
speak out of the silence. Please stand up and speak loudly, so all can
hear, and leave some silence for contemplation before the next
Michael White was the 12th of 14 children born to Ben and Mary
White in Chicago in 1930.
He put his age up to join the Army Air Corps when he was about 15
and immediately regretted it, but his family would not assist him in
getting out of it. He ended up contracting tuberculosis while in the
service and lived in a Veterans Administration hospital, receiving
experimental treatments for 4 years. That is where he met Lyn, who
was a student nurse doing her externship at the hospital at the time.
They dated and later married in secret while he was still a patient
The marriage of Mike to Lyn went in the face of social convention
of that period. That did not bother Mike in the slightest. He opposed
conventions and laws that his conscience told him were not true to
the real human condition. His military service, during the Korean
War, exposed him to the lack of freedom and the cowardice in the
Land of the Free and the Brave he was supposed to kill for. Later, in
civilian life, he found the Quaker faith to most nearly resonate with
his experience-based belief in the futility of violence.
He enjoyed skiing, ice skating, camping and, particularly, horseback
riding. He was a very skilled rider. He enjoyed football and played it
for a while in his youth. He also enjoyed watching horse racing. And
he loved poker.
After leaving the military and VA hospital, he studied at the Chicago
Art Institute. He was a lover of wildlife and was the artist who
created the paintings for the weekly introduction scenes of Mutual of
Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
He owned a successful advertising agency in Chicago, Mike White
& Associates, during the mid-1960s to mid 1970s. He was an award
winning advertiser who held ad accounts with McDonalds, Illinois
Bell, Alberto-Culver, Motorola, etc. He was very involved with the
civil rights movement, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and
worked with Jesse Jackson in Chicago where he produced
promotional materials and campaigns for Operation PUSH.
He joined Markmakers, Inc. as Senior Art Director in 1975 but soon
restarted his own business – focusing on the design and construction
of promotional displays for the Taylor Winery, Adler Planetarium,
Abbott Pharmaceuticals, etc. After relocating to northern California
his company eventually focused on promotional and creative
photography, which was his true passion.
He became involved with Reevaluation Counseling (RC) in the early
1970s. He began teaching RC theory and peer counseling and was
appointed by Harvey Jackins as the International Black Liberation
Reference Person for the organization, a post that he held for ten
years or so. He wrote articles on theory which were frequently
published in RC literature. He also traveled throughout the United
States, Canada and Europe where he led RC workshops. His main
emphasis was in the Elimination of Racism and he expanded and
perfected Jackins’ “Golden Circle” demonstrations, which were
extremely effective in provoking awareness of racism and racial
attitudes, but also opened dialogues between various groups of
people that society often pits against one another. These dialogues
allowed people to see one another as individuals, form lasting
connections with each other as allies, and commit to taking what
they learned back to their communities to make a difference in the
world. It was in this capacity that he began leading workshops for
Native Americans on various reservations particularly in Canada.
The emphasis of those workshops was to teach skills in Eliminating
Racism and self empowerment. He taught an ongoing class in RC
locally every Wednesday for well over 30 years.
In 1980 he traveled to Madrid as a delegate to the Helsinki Human
Rights Committee conference, which was a great honor to him.
Having struggled with alcoholism as a young man, he became sober
after joining AA and remained an active participant and dedicated
sponsor for the remainder of his life.
Berkeley Friends Meeting had the good fortune of having Michael as
a longtime attender. He regularly attended with Lyn, even when
health made it difficult. He gave vocal ministry in his distinctive
voice, and all present felt its profundity.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992 but continued to
work as a photographer, RC teacher and Little League baseball
coach. He was an amazing father – extremely dedicated to his family.
He personally cared for his wife for nearly 5 years after she had
suffered from a debilitating stroke and, later, Alzheimers. No matter
how painful this was for him, he loved her and was dedicated to
caring for her.
He passed away quietly at home being cared for by family and
friends. He is survived by two daughters (Nancy and April), one son
(Mark), four grandsons (Brandon, Julian, Justin and Benjamin) and
two great grand children – a girl and a boy – (Shayla and Brandon