Notes Concerning the Authors
John Andrew White (1874-1951) was born in the western North Carolina mountains and was raised in poverty by his grandfather, Moses White, a veteran of the War Between with the States, and his second wife. Because his mother, Sally White, and his father, Billy Burleson, had not been married, it seemed to have become the task of the grandfather to raise the baby boy, John, who was given the White name. At age 16 John Andrew, striking out on his own, walked west into eastern Tennessee and gained two years of education at King College in Johnson City. He married Katie May Wood and moved further west in Tennessee where he became an educator and raised a family of three boys and three girls. At the peak of his career as an educator he was Superintendent of Lewis County Schools. All of the poems in Understanding are by John Andrew White, and most were first published in newspapers during the 1920’s.
Howard Ray White, Jr. (1938- ) was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in chemical engineering. His father was Howard Ray White, Sr. His mother was Martha Bell White. Both were school teachers. In 1959, while still at Vanderbilt, Howard married Judith Willis, an accomplished French horn player. Three boys were born to Howard and Judith, two of them living to maturity. Howard’s career eventually took him to Charlotte, North Carolina, where the couple presently resides. Howard’s most important work is the history, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War, which is a highly recommended work among the Society’s listings. Howard, who dropped the “Jr.” following his father’s death, wrote the brief family history which enhances the meaning of the poems in Understanding.
In the normal sense, Understanding Granddad Through His Poetry is not worthy of inclusion in the Society listing of outstanding Southern poetry, for John Andrew White (1874-1951) of Tennessee was in no way recognized as a noteworthy Southern poet. But the 44 poems in Understanding may interest some for the following reasons:
Firstly, his grandson, Howard Ray White, a co-founder of the Society of Independent Southern Historians, loved them, enjoyed them and saw in them the story of a self-made man of the South who had struggled with hardship in youth, yet built a fine career as an educator and became father to three girls and three boys, only to loose his wife long before her time and struggle with hardship all anew. Stated another way, John Andrew White’s poetry is a window through which we can view, through the eyes and emotions of an ordinary, yet educated, Tennessean, Southern rural and small town life between the end of Political Reconstruction and post World War II America.
Secondly, his poetry covers a range of subjects and emotions, is sad here, funny there, sometimes cleverly playing on words to amuse, sometimes drawing upon ancient cultures, more often addressing a current issue. And, of course there are love poems, sweet love poems.
Thirdly, his poetry is of the old school: it invariably rhymes, meticulously rhymes, and the meter is always on pace, always encouraging a verbal recitation.
But Understanding Granddad Through His Poetry is also a brief family history. Why? Because it is through his poetry that his grandchildren have striven to better understand their grandfather — which means that others will also gain far greater meaning of and appreciation of the poems — because poems, with the story behind them are often far more appealing than those without.
Availability of this Book
One hundred copies of this book were printed and 50 are available to the general public, the remainder being reserved for family and friends. To obtain your autographed copy send an e-mail to Howard Ray White at: