White became a local celebrity for his characters in the “Country Boy Eddie Show” and “The Incident at Looney’s Tavern” in Double Springs. But his passion for the entertainment business runs deep in his blood, starting with his great-grandfather.
His great-grandfather was a Vaudeville performer. Vaudeville was a type of variety theater that was popular in the U.S. around the early 1880s.
“It started about the same time as Broadway had started. It was traveling acts that went all over, kind of like the circus,” White said. “My grandmother, my great-grandfather’s daughter, helped him as a magician in The Barnum and Bailey Circus. ... He was originally in the Civil War on the Yankee side and was a captain.”
White’s parents were both actors in theater productions as well and met in a peculiar way. His father, J. Howard White, was struck by lightning at a young age, which caused him to miss a significant amount of time in school. J. Howard’s sister was in charge of a boarding school during that time where White’s mother, Sarah F. White, was a school teacher.
Sarah taught J. Howard the courses he needed to finish school and graduate. The couple was later married and eventually traveled the state performing theatrical acts, White said with a grin. But he met his wife, Miriam Kathy McCullar White, in a haphazard way as well.
“We were at a ballgame in Curry and met there the first time, and then a day or two later I was walking around Jasper and had an appointment at Dr. Sherer’s office,” White said. “I walked in and there she sat with her mother. I got to meet her mother, and she got to meet me. We kind of had a double meeting there.”
After dating for six months, the couple was married on July 13, 1963, five years before a nearly tragic accident occurred.
While changing a tire on his vehicle, White was struck by a car and run over. His body was broken from his pelvis down, including a few ribs and his arm, which left him with a permanent limp. During this time, White was attending college but had to quit and stay out for three years because of his injuries.
When he was finally able to go back to college, he didn’t stop and finished with not only one but three degrees — a bachelor’s in education, bachelor’s in broadcasting and a Ph.D in anthropology.
He attended Idaho State, Livingston University, Walker College, the University of North Alabama and Wallace State Community College.
He always dreamed of being in the entertainment industry but thought his disability would keep him from obtaining that goal; however, after numerous prayers and a streak of luck, White finally got his chance in show business.
“I had always wanted to go into broadcasting and filmmaking,” White said. “... I had always prayed to do broadcasting, and it came kind of in a dynamic way. Country Boy Eddie believed in doing things to help people, so he was hiring and wanted to interview somebody that was handicapped. There was a friend of mine from Birmingham who told me to go for an interview, and I went and got the job.”
White said he played the part of the professor for 13 years on the “Country Boy Eddie Show.” Then, for four years during that same time, White played the well-known character of Winston County’s Uncle Dick Payne in a production at Looney’s Tavern.
“When I’d come off stage over there [at Looney’s Tavern], they’d want my autograph of the professor and Uncle Dick, too,” he said.
White retired from acting in 1996, but he continues to stay busy within the community. He’s a member of the Smith Lake Civitan Club, where he serves as the chaplain, and serves as an usher at Awakening Life Church in Curry. He firmly believes that one of the secrets to being happy in life is knowing God.
“I would have to say knowing the Good Lord. Some people will tell you one thing, but that’s the way I’ve got to where I am now is by knowing God,” said White, who has been a Christian for the past 20 years.
Unfortunately, White’s wife passed away in 2011 from kidney and ulcer complications while also being on a ventilator. White added that it was a very hard time for him. But, he said the two things she instructed him to do after she died was to take care of her dog, Taco, and to always go to church.
When he’s not attending church or going to club meetings, the man with the bright, blue eyes and long, white beard enjoys hanging out with friends at local businesses in Arley and eating with individuals in the lunchroom at Meek Elementary. The only issue that bothers White is for people to overly worry about him.
“People just go around constantly telling me that I can’t do nothing. They’ll see me out here and say, ‘Mr. White be careful, be careful, be careful.’ They call me at home and say, ‘I’m just calling you to tell you to be careful,’” White said. “They always say old people — which I’m not really old, I’m a little hard of hearing, but I don’t consider myself old — can’t do nothing ... I don’t have any health problems. I’m a little crippled, but I don’t feel old.”
As far as White’s next act, he says he may start teaching again, which goes to show that you’re only as old as you want to be.