Tennessee’s first state historian, Dr. Robert H. White was born in Crockett County in 1883. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1910 and completed his graduate work at George Peabody College and the University of Chicago.
From 1911 until 1919 White served on the first faculty at present-day Middle Tennessee State University. There he met and married Margaret Taylor in 1917; they became the parents of two daughters, Susan (Perry) and Barbara (Humes).
After earning his Ph.D. in history from George Peabody College for Teachers, White joined the Tennessee Department of Public Health in 1930, where he served in various capacities. In January 1950 Governor Gordon Browning asked White, who was then director of Historical Research and Writing for the Tennessee Department of Education, to compile the messages of Tennessee’s governors and interpret the events surrounding them.
White had published three volumes from this enormous project when he was named by Governor Frank G. Clement to fill the new office of state historian, created by the general assembly in 1955. In this capacity, White continued to work on Messages of the Governors of Tennessee until his death; this eight-volume work became his greatest contribution to Tennessee history. In addition to his work on the Messages, White published Development of the Tennessee State Education Organization, 1796-1929 and Tennessee: Its Growth and Progress, a textbook long used by school children. He edited Tennessee Old and New and wrote numerous articles for historical journals.
After a life devoted to Tennessee history, Robert H. “Bob” White died on June 7, 1970.
Robert H. White, Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, vols. 1-8 (1952-72)