Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - Andrew Willis White's memorial

Andrew Willis White
1922-July 15, 2009
Cupertino, California

Dr. Andrew Willis White Jr., a physician who practiced in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park and a Menlo Park resident for 41 years, died July 15 at Sunny View Retirement Community in Cupertino. He was 87.

Dr. White opened his first practice in Belle Haven in 1958 with Dr. Larry Hooper. In 1963, Dr. White and Dr. James P. Lockhart formed a longtime Menlo Park medical practice partnership. "Both were well-trained, old-fashioned doctors who just wanted to take care of their community, regardless of anyone's ability to pay," says Dr. White's daughter, Tamera White. "Theirs was one of the few private practices on the Peninsula to accept Medi-Cal, and they were even known to accept collard greens and barbecue as payment."

Dr. White was involved in many professional, church and community activities. He was an associate clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and served in many capacities at Stanford and Sequoia hospitals. For almost 40 years he was an active member of the Laurel Street Church of Christ in East Palo Alto. In 1961 he was elected to the Ravenswood School District board, becoming its first African American member and, later, its first African American chairman, his daughter said.

In 1963 he and his family moved to the Menlo Oaks area of Menlo Park, becoming the first African American family to do so, Tamera White said. In 2004 Dr. White and his wife, Viola, moved to Sunny View Retirement Community in Cupertino.

Dr. White was a founding member of the Menlo Park Boys and Girls Club and, for many years, directed the summer youth conference of the Church of Christ Daybreak Camp, his daughter said.

He retired in 1997 after 39 years of private practice and retired in 2000 from the California Department of Rehabilitation after 26 years as a medical consultant. Dr. White and two other retired physicians were honored in 2005 for a combined total of 100 years of medical service. The San Mateo County History Museum featured Dr. White in a three-month exhibit in 2008 for his outstanding contribution to the county.

Andrew White was born in Houston, Texas, to Andrew Willis White and Jamaican-born Sarah Atherton White. As a teenager, divorce and the Depression forced him and his mother to become live-in domestic workers in River Oaks, Houston's wealthiest neighborhood. His mother, although trained as a teacher, worked as a cook and housekeeper, while Andrew worked as a "yard boy," butler and chauffeur. He rode his bicycle 17 miles a day to a black high school because he wasn't allowed to attend the all-white school in River Oaks, say family members.

It would take more than 17 years after high school for Dr. White to realize his dream of becoming a physician, say family members. He postponed college to work as a redcap and porter, then attended Houston College for Negroes (Texas Southern University) for a year. Later, he served in World War II as a U.S. Army master sergeant in India, Burma and China. After his discharge, he enrolled at Howard University and earned a degree in zoology. On graduation day, June 3, 1949, he married Viola Churchwell.

Both Vi and Andrew worked during his medical school years ; Vi at the Library of Congress and Andrew selling women's hosiery and Kirby vacuum cleaners. In 1956 he graduated from Howard University School of Medicine.

Shortly before he died, Dr. White told his daughters that he wanted his obituary to include his deep gratitude for his wife's fortitude, support and sacrifices in "putting hubby through."

After completing his residence at Sacramento General Hospital in 1958, Dr. White and his family moved to Belle Haven, where he opened his first practice.

He loved adventure, nature, photography, and enjoyed skiing, hiking, traveling and fishing, say family members. Dr. White is survived by three daughters, Marlys White, Tamera White and Dr. Vaneida White; a brother, Fisher White; a sister, Albertha Smith Sanders; and several nieces and nephews. His wife of 58 years, Viola, preceded him in death in 2008.

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