Davison D. White, 66, Sun editor for 30 years, church volunteer

August 06, 2004|By Jacques Kelly and Frederick N. Rasmussen | Jacques Kelly and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Davison D. White, who joined The Sun as a copy boy while in college and became an editor in a career at the newspaper that lasted more than 30 years, died Wednesday at a hospital in Providence, R.I., after being injured while swimming at Nantucket, Mass. He was 66.

Mr. White, a longtime Bolton Hill resident, was bodysurfing Sunday at a beach near his summer home when he was struck by a wave. After being rescued from the rough surf by his granddaughter and bystanders, he was flown by Coast Guard helicopter to Rhode Island Hospital.

Born in Baltimore and raised at his family's Cockeysville farm, Mr. White was a 1957 graduate of Gilman School and earned his bachelor's degree in history in 1961 from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Mr. White began working as a copy boy during the summer of 1960 and was hired as a full-time copy editor in 1963. He was named assistant news editor in 1967 and news editor in 1971.

In 1972, he succeeded the late Charles V. Flowers as editor of the Sunday newspaper's Perspective section and four years later became a Sunday Sun copy editor. He was also a copy editor for the old Sun Magazine and retired in 1995 as Sunday Sun makeup editor.

Mr. White was remembered by colleagues yesterday for not only his quiet demeanor, but also his unflappable approach to resolving any last-minute crisis that would erupt in the composing room, where pages used to be assembled.

"He became well-attuned to the workings of the composing room and popular with the printers, who liked him right from the beginning," said John H. Plunkett, retired assistant managing editor who in 1963 had suggested that Mr. White be hired as a copy editor. "Not only did they like him, they respected him."

"He was a kind and gentle soul, and a totally decent person. He was not an aggressive, cynical or mean-spirited person, which made him kind of out of place on a newspaper," said Gilbert L. Watson III, a retired assistant managing editor.

"Davey was a superb husband, father and grandfather, a superb friend, and a superb newspaperman because he was the epitome of a gentleman with a spirit based on a foundation of gentleness, kindness, love and honor," said John R. Dorsey, former Sun art critic and restaurant reviewer, who had been a friend of Mr. White since they were Gilman classmates.

"He loved The Sun because he could use those qualities successfully in relation to different kinds of people, and because The Sun serves Baltimore and Maryland, which he also loved."

For the past 13 years, Mr. White and his wife of 41 years, the former Barbara Coleman, a former educator and Bolton Hill civic activist, had maintained a home on Nantucket and lived there about five months each year.

He was a volunteer at Nantucket's St. Paul Episcopal Church, and a docent at the African Meeting House, which dates to 1827 and once served as a church and school for the island's African-American population. An avid bicyclist, he liked exploring the island's miles of sand roads aboard a black Huffy.

He enjoyed reading, classical music, and attending the theater and symphony performances in Baltimore.

Mr. White was a communicant of St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon and Emmanuel Episcopal Church, at 811 Cathedral St. in Baltimore, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

"He was a very kind man," said the Rev. Thomas L. Culbertson, rector of Emmanuel. "He was always a willing listener and a willing worker. He counted money every week with our treasurer. He was always there. He was a quiet presence. There was something quite reassuring about that presence."

In addition to his wife, Mr. White is survived by a son, Charles Davison White of Richmond, Va.; a daughter, Laura W. Groseclose of Cockeysville; a sister, Elizabeth W. Fenwick of Butler; and seven grandchildren.

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