Community leader, real estate developer Paul White, Sr. dies at 89

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - He was one of the men who helped build Alexandria into what it is today.

Noted businessman and philanthropist Paul White, Sr. died Thursday. He was 89. (Photo courtesy: White family)

Noted real estate developer and community philanthropist Paul White, Sr. died Thursday at his home in Alexandria at age 89.

Having been raised in Alexandria before moving away for college, White returned to the community in 1952 and proceeded to build a business that has left a large impact on the community even to today.

Among the projects White helped to develop were neighborhoods like Cherokee Village, Highpoint and Charles Park. Also, White and the company he formed with three of his sons developed apartment complexes like Pine Highland, Tanglewood and Walden Point.

White was a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church of First United Methodist Church in Alexandria. He and his wife Joanne helped to start the Shepherd Center, Hope House, the Food Bank and the Rapides Parish chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy had this to say about his passing: "Mr. White was a huge figure in the development of Alexandria, leaving not only a physical legacy in the built environment but one of a family deeply connected to Alexandria. From Lamar Jr., who worked with me and is like a son to me, to the other children, family members and their spouses, the White family is inextricably intertwined with Alexandria growth, politics and faith. On behalf of my office and personally, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the White family."

White was preceded in death by Joanne in 2011.

The celebration of White’s life will be Monday, May 7 at First United Methodist Church of Alexandria. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m., and the service will start at 11. The family asks that all memorials in memory of Paul Donald White, Sr. be sent to the First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, 2727 Jackson Street, Alexandria, Louisiana 71301.

Below is Mr. White's full obituary notice:

Paul Donald White, Sr. 1928-2018

Visionary real estate entrepreneur, devoted Methodist lay leader, prominent community philanthropist and beloved patriarch of a close-knit family, Paul Donald White, Sr. passed away peacefully at his home on May 3, 2018, surrounded by his family. He was 89 years old and was preceded in death by Joanne Lyles, his cherished wife of nearly sixty years, and two of their sons, Wallace Mark and Frederick Lamar, Sr.

Paul Donald White, Sr. was born in Alexandria to Frederick Carlton White, Sr. and Mattie Ford White on November 10th, 1928. He was one of eight children, five boys and three girls, and grew up in the family home on Masonic Drive across the road from Bringhurst Ball Park. From the earliest age, Paul had a deep love of baseball. Throughout his childhood, Paul and his siblings orchestrated neighborhood baseball games in the backyard, a childhood memory he cherished so much that years later he commissioned a painting of one of those games and displayed it behind his office desk for several decades. Bringhurst Ball Park is also where Paul landed his first paid job at eight-years-old, selling peanuts at Alexandria Aces’ games.

Music, both vocal and instrumental, was also at the core of Paul’s love of life. In the fourth-grade, he learned how to play the saxophone. As a student at Bolton High School, his musical abilities grew to the point where he was playing in various dance bands around Central Louisiana. White continued to play while earning his bachelor’s degree in music at Southwestern Louisiana Institute. Besides entertaining soldiers at the various military camps throughout the state, White also was part of a dance band that played at the legendary Blue Moon in Bunkie. While serving in the U.S. Army, Paul was honored with being selected as a saxophonist in the 199th Army Band.

Paul married the love of his life, Joanne Lyles in April 1951. In December 1952 following the birth of their first child, Paul and Joanne returned to Alexandria where he worked with his uncle in the real estate business and Joanne returned to teaching at Bolton High School.

Paul was a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church of Alexandria. The church was at the center of Paul and Joanne’s life together. Paul served as the choir director for the church in the 1950’s and 1960’s and his wife served as an adult Sunday School teacher for almost 60 years. Paul would go on to serve in many lay leadership positions including the Finance committee, the Board of Trustees and the Pastor Parish Relations committee. He also served at the district and state conference level. He was proud to serve as the Conference Lay Leader for the Louisiana Conference and a delegate to the General Conference. He was instrumental in the creation of the Wesley Conference Center in Woodworth and, along with his wife Joanne, made significant contributions to the Bishop Oden Pavilion, the Nature Trails and the Lamar & Wally White Sports Field.

Another bright spot in Paul’s life were his many philanthropic contributions. Together, he and Joanne facilitated the creation of the Shepherd Center, Hope House, and Angel Care. Paul and Joanne White also founded the Christmas Cheer for Children program, the Care for Share Tutoring program, the Rapides Parish chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the Central Louisiana Food Bank. In memory of Wally White, their youngest son, the Whites started the Wally White Lecture Series for the community. Joanne and Paul also funded an endowment in memory of Lamar White, their third son, at the SMU Perkins School of Theology Center for Preaching Excellence.

Paul White, believing education to be essential for all, served on the Rapides Parish School Board for several years. As a member of the School Board, White led efforts to restructure the district’s finances, vigorously supported court-ordered integration, and championed investments in school renovations and new construction. When he learned that Peabody High could not raise enough money on its own to pay for band uniforms and instruments, White introduced and passed a motion that required the district to purchase the equipment. Today, Peabody’s marching band is one of the most award-winning in the South.

Real estate development was a true passion for Paul. He and his good friend J. Herbert Gates became partners with Paul’s Uncle Charles White’s real estate firm. Together the three of them would play a significant role in expansion of West Alexandria in the 1950’s and 1960’s. They would go on to develop Cherokee Village, Yoho Park, Highpoint, and Charles Park. As part of this effort they also built numerous homes throughout the community.

In 1968 Paul went out on his own and established Paul White Real Estate. He continued to build many single-family homes and began to expand his efforts into commercial and multi-family development. During this period, he took his largest business gamble to date and acquired the Hermitage Apartments which at the time was an abandoned, bankrupt property on Jackson Street. He secured the necessary financing and turned this property around into a beautiful new apartment community. This deal would become the basis for much of his future success. During this period, he would also build Woodhollow, the first townhome development in Alexandria. After its completion he would go on to develop Windermere Place and Willow Wood communities.

As the 1980’s began, his three surviving sons returned to join the family business. He would rename the business White Development. At this point White commented that one of his biggest dreams had been fulfilled – being in business with his sons. Over the next five decades together with his wife, three sons, and later his daughters the family expanded beyond Rapides Parish to other markets. White and his sons developed the Jackson Street Business Center, Raintree Condominiums, Hunters Grove and the Woodlands on Kincaid Lake. They also would acquire and develop the Pine Highland Apartments, Tanglewood Apartments, Walden Point Apartments and Cedar Court Apartments in Central Louisiana. They expanded in Shreveport with acquisitions of Villa Del Lago Apartments, Park Villa Apartments and Colony Square Apartments and into Baton Rouge with the Cambridge Apartments, The Establishment Apartments and the Camelot Apartments.

“For decades, Paul D White, Sr has helped shape the architectural landscape of his community,” Cenla Focus declared two years ago, in an article explaining the publication’s decision to select White as the 2016 “Cenla-ian of the Year,” an honor they had also given to his wife Joanne nine years prior.

The couple had six children: Paul Donald “Don” Jr., Charles “Charlie” Nathan II, Frederick Lamar Sr., Paula Elizabeth, Martha Anne, and Wallace “Wally” Mark.

“It’s been a long and wonderful journey, even with the tragedies we were given.” - Paul D. White

The deepest grief of his and his wife Joanne’s lives was the deaths of two of their children, Wally at age 2 and Lamar at age 41. His wife of nearly six decades died in 2011.

However, in spite of those tragedies, his faith in God and love of family never wavered, and his commitment to charity and service never faltered.

“Be generous and sharing. Be honest and kind. Be compassionate. One last thing, know God. He is always there.” - Paul D. White

White was preceded in death by his parents, Frederick Carlton White, Sr. and Mattie Ford White, his wife Joanne Lyles White, sons Wallace Mark White and Frederick Lamar White, Sr., his sisters Edelene Comish and Clara Thigpen, and brothers Fred C. White, Jr., George Raymond White, Charles Allen White, and Ralph Louis White.

He is survived by his sister Mattie Rae Coppage of New Iberia and his children and their spouses: Paul Donald White, Jr. and his wife Kathryn Aitkens White of Baton Rouge; Charles Nathan White II and his wife K.K. Yeager White of Alexandria, Carol Rhodes White (widow of his son Frederick Lamar) of Dallas, Texas; Paula Elizabeth White Hayes and her husband Jeffrey Hayes of Dallas, Texas; and Martha Anne White Johnston and her husband Mark Johnston of Dallas, Texas.

He is also survived by 13 grandchildren: Paul Donald White, III and his wife Jennifer Abbott of New Orleans; Frederick Lamar White, Jr. of New Orleans; Martha Elizabeth White Vasquez, and her husband Jeremy Vasquez of Baton Rouge; Mark Edward White and his wife Michelle Cuevas White of Dallas, Texas; David Lawrence White and his wife Gina McClure White of Huntsville, Alabama; Emily Marie White Corbin and her husband Scott Corbin of Dallas, Texas; Leigh Anne White of Boston, Massachusetts ; Allison Hayes Shulman and her husband Daniel Shulman of Dallas, Texas; Kirk Joseph Hayes and his wife Alex Dayneka-Hayes of San Francisco, CA; Jennifer Joanne Hayes of Baltimore, Maryland, Natalie Elizabeth Johnston of New York, NY, Samuel Mark Johnston of Nashville, Tennessee, and Joseph Paul Johnston of Dallas, Texas, and 11 great-grandchildren.

Paul White was always proud and appreciative of all his current and past employees who helped him achieve such great success.

The Celebration of Paul White’s life will be Monday, May 7, 2018 at First United Methodist Church of Alexandria. Visitation will begin at 10:00 am and the service will start at 11:00 am. The family asks that all memorials in memory of Paul Donald White, Sr. be sent to the First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, 2727 Jackson Street, Alexandria, Louisiana 71301.