Although he only had a 7th grade education, Frank White, Sr. – known as “Doc” – was respected for his knowledge and valured as an involved community member and problem solver. He was a leader in the region’s Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th Century. In the 1950s, he helped establish the Stafford County Branch of the NAACP and his family’s church, Bethlehem Baptist Church, became the center of the African American community’s legal defense training led by lawyers sent from the Virginia State NAACP Office.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Stafford had no high school for black students. Once students in the “separate but equal” black schools reached high school grades, they had to go elsewhere. Doc White and Mr. H.H. Poole pushed the Stafford County School Board for changes for their students; they felt strongly that Stafford County should have a high school for black students. Only after involving the Federal Government was the Stafford Training School for Colored established. (Later, this site became the H.H. Poole Annex for Stafford Schools and is now renamed the Rowser Building for long-time teacher, Ella Rowser.) Doc White and other parents continued to lobby the School Board and Superintendent of Schools, T. Benton Gayle, to provide other educational opportunities for their children. This parent group successfully got Stafford County to sign an agreement with Fredericksburg City to educate Stafford’s black students as tuition students with the tuition fee being paid for by the Stafford School Board; that agreement lasted until segregation ended.
Safe bus transportation was another such issue. Black families realized that the white driver of their children’s school bus was driving while drunk. At one point, after the bus weaved its way down River Road, Doc White’s daughter ordered the bus to stop and got all the students off the bus. Parents were outraged and earnestly pressed the Superintendent to make changes. After lengthy discussion and several unacceptable offers, a compromise plan was developed to properly train each of Doc White’s sons to drive a school bus, thus providing safe, competent school bus drivers over many years!
In the early 1960s, Doc White began to openly push for racial integration of the Stafford Schools, a move which was met with administrative and governmental resistance by various boards and committees. Finally, in 1963, members of the family integrated the Stafford High School and persevered through numerous daily obstacles. Nonetheless, all of Doc’s children acquired an education that permitted them to become successful citizens and to pursue various careers; one became a high school principal, another was recognized as a valued member of the armed forces, and all have become award-winning, involved members of our community.
For more information about Doc White and his family, we recommend connecting with the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation which has collected an oral history of the White family recorded by Doc’s son, John Anthony White. This history and others are available at the Virginiana Room at the Fredericksburg Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
Information is also available at the offices of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation.