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The following program is produced for the national educational radio network by radio station KNU a service of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism. The story of William Allen White is a saga of a boy born in the heart of rural America who chose to stay there yet became a confidante of presidents and one of the world's most influential citizens. From his cluttered desk in the office of his newspaper the Emporia Gazette flowed hundreds of editorials much admired by other editors and widely reprinted thus affecting public opinion around the globe. He was also the author of numerous books 1968 is the year of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Emporia Kansas editor and the event is being marked by various celebrations. The mike millon company in recognition of the centennial has reissued the autobiography of William Allen White in a talk at a birthday luncheon on the campus of the
University of Kansas the alma mater of William Allen White. The editor's son William L. White broke a long public silence concerning his father to make his first major address about the life and works of the man who came to be known throughout the world as the sage of Imparja. We will hear that address as recorded at the Centennial luncheon. William L. White like his father is the editor of the Emporia Gazette. He served on the staff of The Washington Post and Fortune magazine was a correspondent for 40 American daily newspapers in the Columbia Broadcasting System during World War Two and is a roving editor and contributor to the Reader's Digest. Mr. William L. White. We whites. Have one this strong
hereditary trait in my knowledge none of us has made any attempt to follow in his father's footsteps. My father had deep love the greatest respect for his father Dr. Allen life and they had many traits in common. But had he made any effort to follow in his father's footsteps he would have died 24 years ago as mayor of Elder right up and the owner of its leading drugstore. I had one advantage over my father in that his died when he was 14 years old. In our case our lives overlapped by 44 years. And during them I came to know what made him tick far better I am coldly sure than any of these Viagra face during my teenage years we had the normal father son conflicts which the
average family's all too familiar with. But in the decade after college that I spent in Emporia we came we can't we became very close to each other enormously enjoyed working together and. Pooling information and coming to common judgments to us whites looking out at the world. Our father's public image was our private family joke with this age of employ. We might ask him care to pass pass the mashed potatoes. There were also the bill people. My mother and all of his old friends called him well he knew friends whom he really liked. He would always ask call him Will. Then number was never large. Our family joke with those who called him Bill. He had never asked them to and they were pretending to an in of us is that they
didn't. A letter by the way I checked with the Theodore Roosevelt family on this. His intimate and close friends and his family always called him Theodore. They had their teddy people. But now back to this age of Emporia this was carefully planned and I did not know how carefully until I was out of college and considering what I would do. Among other things maybe take a job in the east. Even then I had a strong hunch that it might be best for me to strike out on my own. For there could be a chance that Emporium might get overcrowded with sages looking back on this. I realize that my father watching me was reading my mind. And one summer afternoon he called me to come out on the porch. Where he was lying in the hammock. It was that for that father and son talk which
happens at this period in life in every normal family. Every father desperately tries not to interfere with his son's decisions as to his career but the father never lived who does not privately want his son to stay with him and finally take over the business whatever it may be. I was sitting in that particular Iraq and next his hammock and after the first few sentences of this talk I realized that it was so well organized that he must have been thinking it over for weeks. He knew he said even better than on. What I was now going through. After the stimulus of college life in a small Kansas town could be very lonely. There were so few people I could talk to about the things I really cared about. And that in New York or Washington if I took a job there. In a way I could be much happier. But he said I should give some thought
to the long haul. Emporia Kansas had advantages which maybe I had not carefully weighed. The east was fun but highly competitive. In New York or Washington there would be a hundred maybe more riders as good as are some of them better. If I stayed in Kansas where you could call it the big frog in the little puddle if you wanted to but there was something in it. Because out here where the population was thinner in the competition the running not so keen my name would probably be the best known editors of magazines or syndicates when they wanted to know what the Middle West was thinking about would turn to be for an article. And I should also remember that with the Gazette I could write what I wanted when I was ready to write it. Syndicated columnist for instance had to write five hundred words five days a week. If I would
study them I would see that often the pressure of this deadline forced them to push into print ideas they had not thought through and which would have been much better had they been allowed to mellow and then get a little polish. And maybe most important of all. Far more important than that big frog in the little puddle aspect of it was the fact that on the Gazette I could write without any boss looking over my shoulder. And this was always a deep satisfaction to any writer on the goods that I would not be chained to the desk. However comfortable of any boss I could take time out to write. Whatever books I wanted to whenever I was ready to write them. But these were things he only hoped I would consider. He did not want to influence my decisions. This should be mine alone. If that scene on our
front porch is worth bringing back to you or work more than 40 years it is only to show you how consciously and carefully his own career had been planned. This is not to detract from it. The sage of Emporia was no accident. No successful career ever is. I think he began planning Hiers well on the stuff he was writing editorials that at the dictation of all Colonel Nelson whom he greatly admired. Yet a time might come when he might not agree with the old colonel or when somebody he didn't like might be sitting in the Colonel's chair. The answer was to strike out early at age 27 to become his own boss. Lying that in that hammock he could give me the design on which his own career had been built.
What he could not give of what he could give to no one. Was his capacity for organizing his work. Most of you here are literary craftsman and this capacity any of us would envy. In my boyhood he was down at the office by nine slitting open his mail and dictating answers to his two Naga affairs. Then he wrote is that a toils for the next day after which he read proofs of editorials he had written the day before. There were then a few office or town problems before it was time to go home to lunch. Then came his nap but by two o'clock in the clock he was up in his workroom at the house busy on a magazine article or a chapter in a book. At about 5 o'clock he would come downstairs and either play the phonograph. If a new record had come in or removed from the stack of new books which came to the office every week in the hope that he would
reveal them. In his later years they were galleys from the Book of the month club maybe 20 a month more of course than anyone could read but most could be culled out by reading the first chapter and then skipping through. My mother would help in this and the top five or six they would both read carefully. Occasionally I wonder which of the various contraptions which have come along since his death he would really enjoy it. I can think of only one. He never wrote an airplane or saw a television show. I doubt that he would care for it either. I am sure that as a reporter he would marvel at the wondrous power of television as a reporter's tool. But it takes some great national calamity such as the assassination of a president before television can shake off the chains of its commercials and show what it can really do. But the former graph is
something else. In his time records were not electrically cut. So all low tones and high tones were out. The violin was a squeak and the low tones of the piano did not exist. This is why I am sure he is so loved on the cello and instrument fitted to the sound ratings of the phonograph of that day. Also in his time no record played more than five minutes. I can I can remember him jumping up on his stubby legs 12 times an hour to change the record. How I often think he would love the glorious full sound of the new records on which you can reproduce without condensation an entire movement of any symphony. Simple simple. The rest of the so-called advances of our recent decades I think he would regard as that glittering clone chrome playthings of a mechanistic age.
Now office of trivia. He had not the faintest interest in sports trade. He was passed on to me. He was utterly and mechanical. I have no memory of seeing him with a screw even a screwdriver in his hand to tighten a loose screw on the kitchen door. He could manage a horse and buggy if the horse knew where it was going. But always he had to be chauffeured back and forth to the office either by mother me or by a cook. I remember one day when he rebelled against this dependency and asked me to teach him to drive. I put him behind the wheel. I showed him the starter button the clutch the gear shift the brake all of which he seemed to understand and then showed him how to twist the steering wheel to turn a corner so he pressed the starter button. He shifted gears according to the lesson and we
began to row. Presently we came to the corner again. According to the lesson he'd turn the steering wheel the car turned but he did not seem to realize there could be any need for turning the steering wheel back. So we kept on turning. Jumped the curb and ended up against an elm on a neighbor's lawn which didn't greatly matter because I had managed to get my foot on the brake. That ended his first driving lesson. He never asked to finish the course nor did I urge him to. More trivia. He love good food and had no food taboos whatever. Any new dish fascinated him in my childhood. Breakfast was a full meal. It would start off with grape fruit sprinkled with powdered sugar and the main course could be veal kidneys with half the fat left on and delicious leek charred from the coals of our old iron cook stove.
Maybe it would be sweet breads also broiled and smeared thick with hollandaise sauce or maybe T-bone steaks or cream codfish or liver and onions or it could be hash made from steak tales of the evening before. Boiled with chopped with boiled potatoes green onions and pepper left to swap flavors overnight and then after it had been Brown in the big iron skillet and brought to the table garnished with catnip. For dinner he loved good Cylons. They were never less than 2 inches thick and always he picked them himself. Going past the butcher's block into the cold weather quarter beeves town and pointing to what he wanted. He also wanted good age on them. By which he meant not less than a month. By which time they had grown long green whiskers of MO which were brushed off just before they went into the big iron skillet. Then to the
slowly pan broiled until it was black on the outside but darn pink with them coming just just before coming on our table that we doused with cute little canned mushrooms served up in a sauce of Rael cream. He also was a wonderful Carver prided himself on being able to slice every shred of meat off one side of a techie to feed AB plate 12 people for Thanksgiving dinner. If in order to give Second Helpings the bird had to be changed during the same meal. This was a reflection on his skill. He loved the lump she was Barrack desserts. Jim cakes three decker walnut layer cakes strawberry shortcake for which the inner berries had been chopped. Let to stand overnight in a couple of cups of sugar. And then a table covered with thick cream and more powdered sugar. And
by the way the definition of cream in our house was this. If you took a teaspoon dipped it up and then turned the teaspoon upside down. If anything found out it wasn't create. This joyous life continued until sometime in his fifties you had to go to males for a check up and they found sugar in his urine. The wonder to me is that they didn't find it pouring out of his ears. Anyway they clamped down on him and made him lose 20 pounds and put him own sacrum tablets and gluten bread leaving him only his golden memories of those three layered jam cakes. But he loved good eating and was blessed by the fact that he was the pampered child of two women. His wife and my mother were his wife and his mother who vied with each other in turning out things he liked. Our only serious family rouse
revolved around food. My grandmother who lived next door. But who had dinner with us would always about half the time show up with some cover dish a surprise that she had prepared because Will likes it so much. Inevitably this surprise wrecked a dinner made of my mother had ready to go on the table. If father did not eat this surprise Grandma's feelings would be deeply Heck if he did. He then could not do justice to my mother's dinner and she would be on the verge of tears. Now for my mother the best marriages are those in which the people complement each other in strength and in weakness. Here in St.. Does the planning. My mother had little formal education like many of her generation she had started teaching school when she was 16. I remember when as a college
freshman here Katie of being both surprised and a little angered when a college classmate remarked to me what a beautiful woman she was. Surprise because I never thought of this before and not because it was none of his damn business. In a way she was less stable than my father. She had ups and downs. She could be sparkling and gay and then could follow periods of depression. In another way she was more stable. She had a hard commonsense and a deep sense of fairness. She also had herself some talent for writing and shrewd literary judgment. These think things he needed and he depended on he never wrote a piece of any importance without going over it together. And usually she would read it aloud. Usually her pencil marks are all over his manuscripts. Any top editor would agree that
her suggestions for cuts or a vision were highly professional. She had been the owners of a large family of children spread so widely apart that she herself had been practically the mother to the younger ones of this brood. So she was accustomed to running things and much and to mothering my father I think wanted both as a child I remember the fuse a few spankings in our family and most of these deserved it all were administered by my mother in 1984. When my father was running for governor against the Ku Klux Klan a country editorship passing through Tyla town inquired a garage in Emporia what the people of this town thought of these whites and was told. Wow. I said they say it wife wears pants in the family. To a degree. This was true. But she wore them almost entirely in matters of the family the house and our
yard. Seldom did she get into the Gazette of politics although always they talked things over every night. We children could hear it all coming up over the stairwell and the banisters. She was a steadying influence and kept him out of trouble. During the nine hundred twenty eight campaign when Al Smith was running against Herbert Hoover the. Father made a trip alone to New York. Where some strategist on the Republican National Committee passed to him something they thought he could handle. It was the record of a vote cast by Al Smith in The New York legislature against a bill purporting to abolish prostitution. In that period the Republican picture was that Al Smith represented the Tammany halls of America the corrupt political machines of the big cities in which Vice and alcohol were in TWINE. Who better than a Midwestern movement than a
Midwestern or just throw down the gauntlet to this menace. But as the whole story of that vote presently came out it became clear that the bill in question had been a silly one so loosely drawn by a fanatic that under its terms any hotel in this state could have been permanently padlocked if it could be proved that one of its rooms had been occupied by an unmarried couple. So the nation's liberal press came down on its heels on the sage of Emporia charging that he had been a party to a smear campaign. His family we were with him of course. So as most of Kansas a loyal Republican state and I'm happy to say that most of his biographers have either ignored or sloughed over this brief an unimportant episode however much it deserves to be forgotten I revive it now because it completes the picture of my mother who in this painful crisis told me that had she
gone to with father to New York on that trip she would never have let him do it. Knowing both I know she was right. True he had made the headlines which he loved to do who does not but in this instance at what cost both to justice and to himself. And my mother as I have said has a deep sense of fairness. As he well knew he needed her in this instance he did not have it. By any measure he was truly great and as ever with the great after death legend takes over. It is like George Washington in the cherry tree. In this in his legend there is the benevolent patriarchal small town editor universally beloved by his people. The truth is he was a fighter no fighter ever is or wants to be universally beloved by everyone as who should know better than I who from the early
William Allen White
Producing Organization
University of Kansas
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
Documentary-drama commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of journalist William Allen White.
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Producing Organization: KANU
Producing Organization: University of Kansas
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.5-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:53
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Chicago: “William Allen White,” 1968-11-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 5, 2022,
MLA: “William Allen White.” 1968-11-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 5, 2022. <>.
APA: William Allen White. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from