Died: November 28, 1955
Married: Ruth Morris
William Chapman White was a foreign correspondent in the 1930s who became a columnist for the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. He is known especially for his 1954 book, Adirondack Country. His connection with the Adirondacks was through his marriage to Ruth Morris, daughter of the theatrical agent, William Morris, who owned a "cure camp" on Lake Colby. The Adirondack Research Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library is named for Bill and Ruth White.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 29, 1955
"LIVING IN SARANAC LAKE"
"That Booklet Story": How A Job Was Done In Few Hectic Days
Three weeks ago tomorrow, on Wednesday, November 9, to be precise, Dr. H.F. Smyth Jr. and Dr. C. P. Carpenter Jr. came to Saranac Lake from Pittsburgh.
The two scientists are among the leading figures on the staff of Mellon Institute, and their visit followed by several weeks a visit by Dr. Edward Weddlein, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway and Dr. C.W. Walmer, administrative heads of the Institute.
If the negotiation's between the Institute and the Trudeau Foundation should "prove feasible", as the joint statement of Dr. Weidlein and Dr. Francis Trudeau, Jr. puts it, Dr. Smyth and Dr. Carpenter might be among the first to move to Saranac Lake.
Consequently, they asked Dr. Trudeau a number of very exact questions about this community: the schools, the churches, the costs of rentals, the distances to large centers, etc.
Some of the questions were easy to answer some were not, at least not with the precision the scientists wanted. Furthermore they wanted the answers in some kind of written form they might use to give to other Mellon scientists and their families.
But Dr. Trudeau knew that there was in Saranac Lake a human resource which was always available short notice. The human resource was Bill White. And so Dr. Trudeau assured the visiting scientists that he could produce the information in acceptable form within three days, or at the latest bring it with him to Pittsburgh the following week.
Dr. Trudeau approached the human resource who, as was his custom, dropped everything else and went to work for Saranac Lake.
On Thursday, November 10, he worked all day and night. As his postscript above indicates, 1 his wife, Ruth, his brother-in-law, Bill Morris Jr., and Mrs. Bill Morris did the "research" by calling up all sorts of people in the community. Jack Valdez supplied the material on the real estate situation.
By midnight on Thursday Bill White had a manuscript. At that late hour Dr. Trudeau Jr. and this correspondent hove in view at Camp Intermission, read the manuscript and made comments. The comments were insignificant, except for our complete admiration and wonderment that such a complete and eloquent job could be done so rapidly.
By 10:30 Friday morning Jim Finn had the manuscript, with all of Bill's usual typographical errors corrected. Just after lunch, Jim's brother Bob started setting the type.
Bob did the work on the text pages, Jim worked on the picture pages and layouts, and Vic Burman was "the apprentice who gave up his free Saturday afternoon." (We are proud to add here that Vic is an Enterprise alumnus, having worked in our circulation department during his last years in high school from which he graduated a year ago last June.)
Saturday morning Bill White was back down at the Currier Press. He read proof, and picked out the cuts he wanted. Meanwhile he had found some more pictures in the Enterprise office, and they were being "scanned" or engraved for him.
The day before, Bill White, son of a Presbyterian minister, had discovered that there were two centers of religion in Saranac Lake for which no one could find a picture: the Jewish Community Center and the Christian Science Church. He called us at The Enterprise to find out what we could do about it, and pronto. Bill McLaughlin was on vacation. Jon Sherwood was working on that day's paper.
But at that opportune moment we saw Bob Atkinson of the Syracuse Post-Standard stroll into the office. We grabbed him, and he took the pictures on that murky day, with Jon Sherwood doing the developing, printing, and scanning. So all the religious centers are represented in the booklet.
The work at the Currier Press continued that Saturday until midnight. Mrs. Frank Trudeau came down during the evening with a bottle of champagne and glasses, but it was decided not to hold the celebration until "the Trudeau problem" was actually solved.
Work started again Sunday around noon, with Dr. Frank Trudeau at the bedside. By 7 p.m. sufficient progress had been made to assure final publication on Monday.
And on Monday afternoon, about 3 p.m., 140 copies of the most eloquent little booklet ever written about this village were delivered to William Chapman White, beautifully printed and bound.
Dr. Francis Trudeau Jr., president of the Trudeau Foundation, left that Monday evening by train for Pittsburgh, carrying with him some eloquent answers to some very searching questions.
We reprint in the adjoining column the last section of the text as a sample of what the Pittsburgh scientists learned about Saranac Lake from the pen of its finest spokesman.
(Editor's Note: There follows the last section of the booklet, "Living in Saranac Lake", 140 copies of which were printed by the Currier Press on Monday. November 14, 1955. They are the last of many word Bill White wrote in his long efforts to serve this village, his village.)
"LIVING IN SARANAC LAKE"
Seven thousand people live in Saranac Lake. They enjoy its friendliness—which is real and not only a mere three-syllable word. They are proud of its freedom from discrimination of any sort, whether religious, racial, or economic. Granted the right to live as they see fit, they willingly grant that right to their neighbors.
Many of these people came from the big cities of America and Europe. They could move away tomorrow if they chose. They may grouse about the wretched weather of March, about a sudden snowstorm in April that seems a little too much for the spirit to bear, or about a sudden mountain thunderstorm that can ruin a fine August afternoon. Yet they would not think of moving away. They have happened on a unique kind of life in America—a similar life, free of big-city pressure, a life as close to nature as the woods outside the backdoor, a life in which a man's income does not set the opinion of his merit or of his usefulness. It is life in these backwoods, geographically, but with many big city advantages and with La Guardia airport just hours away if need be.
Those who have come have discovered that Saranac Lake is a village where men can work happily in any field, as hundreds have done for long useful years, without distraction and without the waste of energy that so often goes in mere bustle. The list of these people is long and includes scientists, doctors, musicians, writers, painters, and many theatrical people. Some have been world-famous.
All of them saw the late autumn sunset color the hills purple. They saw the faint green veil of the first tamarack in April and the pink lady-slipper in the glade. They saw the early winter sun set a snow-capped peak afire and they have watched the tinkling curtain of black ice as a warm spring wind drove it from the lake.
All these things are part of the Adirondack world. These men, from a thousand sidewalks, felt that they too were part of that world and belonged in it, as they may never have felt they belonged in a man-made city. That was their great discovery. With it came a new satisfaction and deep content.
For them the little living village of Saranac Lake was home. They would not have traded it for any other place in the world.
—William Chapman White.
The Tribune On Bill
Bill White had thousands of friends he never knew. Sometimes one of these would show, framed on the wall, one of the columns he had been writing for the editorial page of this newspaper; sometimes the faded copy would come out of a hand bag or wallet. These people had come to look for his cheerful, discerning essays, and again and again some particular note he struck, some perception of life or nature, some humorous or indignant comment, went home to the very truth as they knew it. All these friends will miss Bill White when, next week, the five hundred and seventy-fifth column he wrote for us puts finis to his work.
In Saranac Lake, where he lived and wrote through the year, he was beloved as a neighbor who gave unstintingly of himself. The town library and hospital were his special interest, but there was nothing that touched the well-being of the community no individual in need of encouragement or help that failed to enlist his concern He had. traveled much and known the life of a foreign correspondent and the city man before turning to this upstate village to watch the seasons pass and gather by wide reading and correspondence the human stuff that made up his columns. He wrote effortlessly never at a loss for topics. For life as he saw it was infinitely varied and touching and amusing, and as a wise man he could enjoy it all.
— One thinks of the different patterns into which his writing fell. There were the columns on local characters of his invention; the ghost stories; the American folk tales he loved to embellish and preserve; the instances of individual character or cussedness; all the fantastic and unlikely happenings that a culling of the American press brought to his attention. But perhaps his nature pieces will be remembered best of all. Bill White loved the Adirondacks, its rounded mountains, its lakes its woods; he knew them intimately in all the lights and seasons. In one of his pieces this last autumn he wrote of the "annual miracle" that had once more come and gone in the great Northern woods. Now a man could see, he wrote, what under the heavy summer growth was unseen—"the little things of the woods."
He moved that day in a "new light," in "the unbroken quietness that neither bird nor animal disturbs"; he walked down the "pillared corridors" of the trees. When such a one dies, a part of, him remains in nature; and that presence, like the words he wrote in his lifetime, helps all of us to know the true beauty that is around us.
The following telegrams were received, among many others by Mrs. Ruth White in Saranac Lake this morning. The Reids own and publish the New York Herald Tribune, and have spent their Summers on St. Regis Lake. Mr. Heckscher was Bill White's close friend among the Tribune's editorial writers.
Terribly saddened over the news of your great loss. Mr. White's column "Just About Everything" became a mainstay on the editorial page and was much read and commented upon by our readers. His distinguished writing and his sense of what was meaningful in our day will long be remembered as a major contribution to American letters. Please let me know if there is anything I personally or the paper can do. Deepest sympathy.
There are no words to tell you of my grief over your husband's death. He was a great man and a precious asset to the paper's editorial page; He will be widely missed by his devoted readers. My understanding and heartfelt sympathy to you and your boy.
Shocked beyond words by news of Bill's death in Washington. My heartfelt sympathy to you and your wonderful family. His loss came as a great blow to me and as a tragedy for the Herald Tribune. Do let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
We are all distressed beyond words at the sad news the day has brought and our thoughts are with you and your family. If there is anything we can do please let me know. Bill will be missed by thousands of friends he never knew, and in his community he will be remembered as an example of generosity and kindness. I shall always keep the happy recollection of the day with him at Saranac Lake last summer.
- ''Adirondack Country'' (full text)
- A sample of his work is found in ''The Tavern Lamps are Burning'', at Google Books
1. This is a reference to a letter that White wrote, a photograph of which ran with the story; it is unreadable in the microfilm that is the source for this page.