Gorman W. White Sr., 81, film lover, screen innovator

March 11, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Gorman Wesley White Sr., a film lover who significantly improved movie theater screens, died Thursday of Alzheimer's disease at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 81.

Mr. White was born and raised in Clifton Park. He graduated in 1939 from City College and married his childhood sweetheart, the former Elizabeth "Bobbi" Lauf, a year later.

Mr. White attended the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Delaware, where he studied engineering but did not graduate. He worked as a mechanical engineer at Glenn L. Martin Co., designing bombers during World War II.

Mr. White later worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground before returning to Martin, where he spent a decade as a project engineer.

In 1966, Mr. White joined General Register, a division of American Tote, as a chief engineer. At the company's Hunt Valley offices, Mr. White's entrepreneurial and inventive instincts emerged.

He designed ticket-issuing devices, ranging from the dispensers that deli counters and bakeries use to serve customers to the devices on Skee-Ball games that issue tickets as players score points.

He also had ideas that didn't succeed.

In the 1960s, Mr. White and a friend designed a trash compactor for the dashboards of automobiles.

"The problem was that it took a lot of energy, but my father thought it would save litter on a lot of the highways," said his son, Jay S. White of Homeland. "He wanted to write to the governors of all 50 states and have them work this idea into their litter campaigns" during President Lyndon B. Johnson's highway beautification program. But that idea didn't pan out."

In 1973, Mr. White left the company, purchased some of the product lines and formed Cemcorp, in Forest Hill.

He continued to design and sell ticket-issuing machines for movie theaters and the amusement industry and became active in the National Association of Theater Owners and the Theater Equipment Association, traveling frequently to Los Angeles and New York for movie premieres and other film parties.

"I don't mean to suggest that he was a jet-setter because he was a very modest man, but he really loved the movies," Jay White said, adding that as a child, his father occasionally sneaked into theaters and spent the whole day. "So even though he went through his aircraft and designing stage, it was neat that his vocation evolved to what he loved the most."

In 1977, Mr. White purchased Hurley Screen Corp. and modified the screen lamination process to create a superior surface on which to project the film.

He also designed a perforated screen that allowed sound to emanate through.

The developments, his son said, "revolutionized the movie screen industry." Now run by another son, Gorman White Jr. of Jarrettsville, Hurley Screen is one of three major cinema screen manufacturers in the United States.

It counts the White House, Radio City Music Hall and Lincoln Center among its clients.

Mr. White retired in 1987.

Mr. White enjoyed traveling, reading and painting with oils and watercolor, and prided himself on winning more than he lost in blackjack. He also designed and built his stone and clapboard home in Northeast Baltimore.

Mr. White was a regular at the Senator Theater, where he earned a lifetime pass but insisted on paying each time he went. And he amassed a collection of more than 600 movie videos, his favorites being biography-type films and anything with John Wayne.

He twice served as church council president of the Epiphany Lutheran Church, where he was a member for 46 years.

Mr. White also was active in the Shriners of the Baltimore Boumi Temple and with the Masons of Mt. Nebo Lodge.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Schimunek Funeral Home, 9705 Bel Air Road in Perry Hall.

He is also survived by his wife of 60 years; a daughter, Ruth White Earnhart of Baltimore; a sister, Shirley Kick of Arbutus; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to Gilchrist Center, 6601 N. Charles Street, Towson 21204, or to the Alzheimer's Association.

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