Who the Heck Was . . . John T. White?

If you had said the words “John T. White” to Fort Worth folks seventy-five years ago, those folks might not have known if you were referring to a man, a road, a school, or a community.

John Thomas White was born in Keller in 1889, son of farmer Charles White and Frances White.

He attended public school in Keller and later graduated from North Texas State Teachers College (now UNT) and Cordell Christian College in Oklahoma.

About 1912 he began teaching and spent fourteen years in the Keller and Smithfield school districts as teacher and administrator.

In 1926 White ran for the office of county superintendent of schools. Well into the twentieth century Tarrant County, with the exception of Fort Worth, was still largely rural. In 1926 Tarrant County had fifty-six rural schools under the supervision of the county through a board and a superintendent. Tarrant County would maintain its county school system into the 1970s.

White was elected and took office as county superintendent on January 1, 1927.

In 1927 two county school districts located northeast of HandleyEderville and Wheeler, each with a two-room wooden schoolhouse—were consolidated to form a new district. The new district was named in honor of Superintendent White.

Voters of the new John T. White School District approved bonds to build a new schoolhouse to serve Ederville and Wheeler.

A community named “John T. White” grew up around John T. White School. And the country road that the school was located on—Isham Chapel Road—came to be known informally as “John T. White Road.”

White was at least the third county school superintendent to have a school named after him, following George T. Bludworth and Duncan McRae.

First principal of the new school was A. T. Bridges, who had made a speech in support of candidate White in 1926.

By 1933 the John T. White School would offer a four-year high school curriculum.

The John T. White School, like other county schools, had its own school board.

Unlike other county schools, the John T. White School had its own kitchen band. Instruments included dishpan, rolling pin, coffee percolator, skillet, egg slicer, broom, and tea kettle.

After four terms in office, in 1934 White ran for the office of county judge. But he was defeated and was succeeded as county superintendent by A. D. Roach, who had hosted a political rally for White in 1926.

White returned to teaching while studying law. Earlier he had attended law school for two years and had taken law school correspondence courses for three years.

In 1935 he received his law degree from Jefferson University in Dallas and began practice in Fort Worth.

In 1953 the county made it official, renaming Isham Chapel Road “John T. White Road.” Actually the road was misnamed to begin with: The chapel founded in 1872 by Reverend Washington Marion Isham was located two miles north of Isham Chapel Road. But the road did/does lead to Isham Cemetery. Reverend Isham, who lived nearby, donated land for the cemetery.

The late 1950s brought a double whammy to the John T. White School. First, the city of Fort Worth annexed the land that contained the school district as Fort Worth acquired land on which to build the Village Creek sewage treatment plant.

Note that two years after the official name change, the map still refers to the road as “Isham Chapel.”

Second, the Fort Worth school system annexed the John T. White School district.

But the John T. White School lives on, now as an elementary school opened in 2011 a quarter-mile east of Isham Cemetery.

John T. White would not live to see his second namesake school. He died in 1961.

He is buried in Bourland Cemetery in Keller.

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