By Bill Milliken
Governor White was an early supporter of Communities In Schools and that support came at a critical time for the organization. Although we had a foothold in Atlanta, many of our pilot programs were in danger of losing their funding. Our program in Houston was one of the few survivors of that pilot period. It was at that moment that the Governor and Linda Gale White stepped up to help CIS expand throughout Texas. He knew it had great potential. If he had not backed CIS in Texas, our network would be half our size and we wouldn’t have the same national impact that we have today.
What many people don’t know about the Governor was that he was extremely humble. He insisted that Linda Gale White get all of the credit for their support of CIS. They had a terrific partnership. She would tell him what needed to be done to help our kids and he would pick up the phone to open the doors. He had personal relationships on both sides of the aisle and so he was able to shepherd bipartisan deals that ensured continued support for CIS at a time when funding wasn’t always guaranteed.
He always showed up for CIS, even after he was out of office. He would accompany his wife to the CIS National Board meetings and he was often only one of the few spouses in attendance. My wife, Jean, was in that small group. For that reason, we became extra close. I would look forward to talking to him after the meetings. He had a great wit and told wonderful stories. He also loved CIS and would talk about us anywhere he went.
I last saw him in May at our Town Hall and 40th Anniversary Celebration. We had asked him to sit up front during one of the events so that we could recognize his contributions. But again, he insisted that his wife take the spotlight. When we spoke later, he told me that he was so proud to see how CIS had not only survived but thrived.
We will all miss him greatly.