Tom “Babe” White was never a head coach in Colquitt County and was an assistant just 16 seasons.
But the community revered and respected this competitive but humble man perhaps like no other.
He was selected to carry the Olympic Torch through the county in 1996 and four years later was inducted into the inaugural class of the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame.
When the City of Moultrie completed its exercise trail in 1999, it was named in his honor.
And in 2005, the home of his beloved football Packers was renamed Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium.
White died at age 87 early Monday morning at his home, where he had been bed-ridden and in declining health for a number of years.
But even as White became less responsive in recent years as his health failed, the stream of former players and coaches and others in the community did not abate. They continued to go to the house on Third Street Southeast to pay their respects to “Coach White.”
“He always demanded the best, but he did it in a different way,” said Bob Montgomery, president of South Georgia Banking Co. in Moultrie and one of White’s former players. “He always treated you with respect.
“His character was always above reproach.”
Bobby Cobb, another one of the linemen that blossomed under White’s tutelage, remembers that White never used a word strong than “dang.”
But he could motivate.
“If you were willing to give all you had, he was willing to give all he had for you,” said Cobb, who like Montgomery, was a lineman on the Moultrie High 1963 South Georgia championship team.
And Montgomery and Cobb were just two of those who thrived under White’s guidance. Among the other superb lineman who played for him were Buddy McCoy, Lindy Boatwright, Frank Hanna, Dick Beard, Roscoe Holland, Ed Griffin, Wayne Tucker and Dewey Cobb.
McCoy, who went on to play at Georgia Tech, has said he was already a polished blocker by the time he went to Atlanta.
“My pulling guard technique had been perfected by Tom White,” McCoy said.
Thomas Edgar White was born Feb. 23, 1925, in Fitzgerald, where he played football for Fitzgerald High from 1940-1942, serving as the team’s co-captain in 1942.
He also was on the track team and competed in the state track meet in the high jump.
While attending the University of Massachusetts, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served from 1943-1946, working as a flight engineer and gunner of B-24 bombers during World War II.
After the war, he attended what is now Georgia Southern and graduated in 1949.
That fall, he was named the head football coach at Cochran High School.
The next year, he moved to Colquitt County to join Jim Still’s Moultrie High School staff as the line coach.
He continued to coach the Packers linemen under Knuck McCrary and Bud Willis.
White earned his master’s degree from Florida State in 1955 and was an assistant principal at Moultrie/Colquitt County High from 1965-1979.
He also was the head of the high school’s attendance office from 1975-1986.
White also was runner, competing in more than 300 races, including the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta for several years.
He won a Georgia Grand Prix championship in 1991 at the age of 65 and even into his 70s he ran four miles a day, six days a week.
It was his dedication to running that led City of Moultrie to name the exercise trail made from the former CSX rail bed along South Main Street the Tom White Linear Park.
Several years later, he was honored again when the turf at the stadium he had coached at was named in his honor.
For many years, White was the master of ceremonies at the Packers annual football banquet and he enjoyed sharing his memories of Packer football.
He was active in Moultrie’s Fist United Methodist Church, where he taught a men’s Bible class for 40 years.
And in 2003, he received the Moultrie YMCA’s Distinguished Leadership Award.
In his introduction, it was stated: “Our honoree did not lead because he had a title and authority. He earned a revered title because he is and always has been the best kind of true leader. His is a title that to this day, many years after his sideline career ended, lovingly and respectfully, often replaces his given name. He has led by example his entire life.
“He proudly and deservedly answers to the title we at the YMCA hold in the highest regard when it is carried with honor. We call him “Coach.”
And at the 1999 ceremony naming the exercise trail in his honor, Ronnie Schreiber, another of White’s former players, introduced him as “a Sunday school teacher, a high school football coach, a mentor to many and a man of gentle disposition.”
For Tom White’s obituary, please see Page 2A.