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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Jackson White Jr., March 14, 1986. Interview C-0029-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Hard work and integrity drive White's career

White says that he has always been driven by a dedication to service, not by ambition. He ascribes his success to the respect he earned with his work ethic and his integrity.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Jackson White Jr., March 14, 1986. Interview C-0029-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What's the key to your success?
THOMAS JACKSON WHITE, JR.:
First of all, it would not be for me to say if or how I have been successful. But if I had to stand off and look at it and feel detached from the total effort, I would say, basically, that I have always loved my state and wanted to serve my state in some capacity. If I did, I wanted it to be useful, conservative, and constructive and whatever I did I certainly wanted it to be honorable and I was not afflicted nor tainted with any burning desire for power. I've never aspired to being governor of North Carolina. A few people have suggested that I run for governor. I've had maybe more than a few to suggest that, but my answer has always been, "Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your suggestion and your confidence. But I've held the hands of too many governors not to know that it's a sorry job." I would just turn and brush it away like that because, to be governor, you have to sacrifice your independence, which means a lot to me. I have just thoroughly enjoyed serving the state of North Carolina, if I have served it, in the best way that I knew how. To do that, you have to be willing to get up in the morning and get on the job and stay with it and go back to it after dinner if it necessary or even if it isn't. But the basic thing you have to have, I think, in order to be successful as a member of the General Assembly, is to have the respect of the people with whom you deal. And you can't acquire that and keep it unless you demonstrate that you are willing to work hard enough to know what you are doing and that you are not real fond of getting full of steak and potatoes and liquor every night, not that I'm down on that, I just can do my job better if I don't do that. You try to help other folks with their problems without seeking any pay or remuneration of any kind, or even like favors. You're just willing to be helpful to other servants of the state, that's the way I look at it. I guess that's about as fair an analysis of it as I can give you. But the thing that I would never want to lose would be the respect of the members of the General Assembly, the judiciary, and other lawyers, whether I appeared with them or against them. I would want them to know that when I was advocating a cause that the basis on which I was proceeding was, in my opinon, sound and one, I felt, was correct and should be given my best effort.
PAMELA DEAN:
I think from what you have said and from what I have read, even in the newspapers that you were battling with, that I don't think anyone's really questioned that.
THOMAS JACKSON WHITE, JR.:
Well, if I've ever had my integrity questioned I don't know when it was. There are two other ingredients which one has to have to be successful in the kind of thing that I have spent my time doing. Well, really there are three, we've already mentioned one of them, but I say you've got to have, number one, integrity. Then you've got to be enthusiastic about what you are doing. You've got to have courage to do what's right when it's uncomfortable to do what's right. And you've got to have an absolutely inexhaustible supply of determination. That's what you've got to have.
PAMELA DEAN:
Well, I'd say that to have done what you've done against some of the opposition you've had you were determined. [Laughter]
THOMAS JACKSON WHITE, JR.:
I love to have opposition.