CINCINNATI -- Allan White, one of the original members of the WCPO newsroom and a local broadcasting legend, died Saturday at the age of 94, according to his family.
White worked for the Cincinnati Post and WCPO Radio, both owned by Scripps Howard, in the 1950s before being approached by Al Schottelkotte in 1959 with an offer to help create a TV news operation. He accepted and joined the four-person WCPO-TV news department.
"We started WCPO News from scratch," White said years later. "Al was the news director and the newscaster. I was the reporter and the staff."
White covered some of the biggest events and newsmakers of the 20th century, including exclusive interviews with former President Harry Truman on the tarmac at Greater Cincinnati Airport in 1962 and Major League Baseball great Jackie Robinson in the seats at Riverfront Stadium during the 1972 World Series.
WATCH White interview Jackie Robinson in 1972:
White organized the first live local remote TV broadcast when WCPO televised the notorious George Ratterman trial in Newport in 1961. He also conducted live interviews with the key players inside and outside the courtroom.
WATCH White talk about broadcasting live from the Ratterman trial:
"We really didn't know what we were doing," White said about those early years. "There were no textbooks on the subject. There was really no precedent. We came to work everyday and everyday was a brand-new adventure. Something was different, and it was fun."
As the staff grew, the Dayton, Kentucky, native transitioned to news and assignment editor before retiring from WCPO in 1989, but then he came back to archive some of WCPO's early news footage, preserving local history for future generations.
Even after he was finished archiving, he was a frequent WCPO visitor, offering expertise and encouragement to new generations of journalists.
"I've lived through probably one of the most interesting and envious television news careers anyone could have," White said, summing up his 30 years at WCPO and 41 years in Cincinnati news.
White's co-workers respected and admired him for more than just his broadcast skills.
WATCH Tom McKee tells why Allan White was one of a kind:
"There was no doubt about his knowledge, professionalism and friendly demeanor. Everyone got along with and respected Al," said reporter Tom McKee, who started at WCPO as an intern in 1973 and knew White for decades.
"The most important trait about Al White was his personality. Nobody was a stranger to him. Everybody was a friend. But the most important thing about Al White was his devotion to his wife Betty and their children. They were his life."
WCPO mourns original newsman Allan White.
- friend, mentor, kindest man alive. Allan White embodied all that is good in this world. So happy he was ours. I will miss him endlessly. https://t.co/BfFuxbpYPn
— Tanya O'Rourke (@TanyaORourke) December 9, 2018
White's late wife of 68 years is well known in Northern Kentucky for operating Mrs. White's Kindergarten. A schoolteacher, Mrs. White started her own kindergarten in her Fort Wright basement after Kentucky suspended kindergarten in public schools in 1959.
Her husband helped, too. He found a Cincinnati Public Schools warehouse that sold surplus furniture and bought 26 small wooden chairs for about 50 cents apiece. He installed tile in the basement that remains there to this day, and he built tables out of doors that he bought at a lumberyard.
Lucy May, who attended Mrs. White's Kindergarten, said she got a call out of the blue from Al White six years ago after starting her current job as digital reporter at WCPO.
"Just a few weeks into the job – before I even had a phone at my desk – I got a call on my cell phone from Mr. White. He introduced himself and told me his wife recognized me on the news. His wife, Betty, had been my teacher back in the 1970s. I chatted with Mrs. White for a few minutes before Mr. White took the phone again and gave me this advice: 'Don’t screw it up.’
“Sage advice and a warm welcome to the WCPO family from a journalism legend. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never forget the Whites. They were an amazing team.”
We at WCPO offer our deepest condolences to the White family. We will miss him dearly.
Survivors and services
Allan White is survived by children Michael Allan White (Hetty) of Lexington; James Byron White (Cheri Collis) and Patricia White Yost (Michael) of Louisville; Jo Ann White Davy (Paul) of Houston; Jane White Woodruff of Fort Thomas; 12 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren; brother Kenneth George White (Corinne) of Cold Spring; nephew Dan White and nieces Melanie White Shaffer, Sally Green Ramirez and Mary Green.
Visitation Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, from 9 a.m. until funeral Mass at 11:30 a.m., both at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1680 Dixie Hwy., Ft. Wright, Ky. A private burial is planned. In lieu of flowers, you can donate to the St. Elizabeth Foundation, 1 Medical Village Dr. Edgewood, Kentucky, 41017, or St. Agnes Parish, Park Hills, Kentucky. Swindler & Currin Funeral Home is handling arrangement. You can express your condolences here.