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Claburn (Clay) T. White
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Obituary for Claburn (Clay) T. White

Claburn (Clay) T. White was born August 17, 1925, to Lester and Veola Money White near Venus, Texas. Clay grew up in Geary, Oklahoma, with an older brother, Carl, two younger sisters, Mary Ellen and Peggy. He lettered in four sports at Geary High School: football, basketball, baseball, and wrestling. Clay excelled in wrestling and won the state wrestling championship his senior year. Upon graduation, he was inducted into the army and served with the 102nd Infantry Division, Third Battalion, 406th Regiment, Company M in 1944. Clay was on the front lines in WWII, and served in the “Battle of the Bulge”. He was discharged on May 28, 1946. Returning to his hometown Geary, he married Nina Jo Ford on February 23, 1947, and attended Southwestern State University on a wrestling scholarship, transferring and graduating from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). During this time, he participated in the 1948 US Olympic Wrestling tryouts.

In 1951, Clay began his 26 year career as a special agent with the FBI. He served in Springfield, Illinois, Little Rock, and then Hot Springs. His work in Arkansas included active involvement in the support of Little Rock Central High School desegregation conflict and the elimination of racial atrocities in Mississippi. Clay also led the investigation of many organized crime personalities who frequented Hot Springs at the time, including enforcing the closing of illegal gambling. He was an FBI instructor and taught hundreds of federal, state, and local law officers in firearms, defense tactics, and arrest procedures. He was an excellent marksman. Clay received numerous commendations from J. Edgar Hoover for his work. At the request of the Governor, he retired from the FBI in 1977 to accept the director’s position of the newly established Arkansas State Crime Laboratory. In 1980, Clay made the decision to run for Garland County Sheriff and after being elected, held the position for twelve years (6 terms), retiring in 1992. He was the first vice president of Hot Springs Men of the Churches, president of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Officers Associations, served on the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee for the Western District of Arkansas, the advisory board of the Criminal Justice Institute, the Thadeus H. Caraway Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2278, and held positions for the Boy Scouts, Downtown Lions Club and Elk’s Lodge. Clay also taught Sunday School for the First United Methodist Church boys class and helped establish the Garland County Jail Ministries.

Although Clay had many good characteristics, we, his family, feel his strongest was his generosity and care for everyone. In addition, we are very proud of all his accomplishments, including 1976 Lawman of the Year by the Hot Springs Exchange Club and 1986 Arkansas Sheriff of the Year award. We were also honored that in 2014 Orval Allbritton / Garland County Historical Society wrote / published “Lawman – The Story of Clay White, A Life of Service”, a biography of his remarkable life. In promoting the book, Garland County Historical Society Director Liz Robbins stated that “Clay’s lifetime of service helped shape the life of a community”. Clay and Nina celebrate the many lifelong friendships they developed from his career in the FBI and law enforcement. After 65 years of Hot Springs residency, they also have close relationships with many neighbors and First United Methodist Church members.

Since moving to Hot Springs in 1954, Clay took advantage of the lakes and enjoyed water skiing, boating, and fishing. He was an avid skier and an excellent teacher for first time skiers, teaching many of his friends, family, and his children’s friends how to ski. The family also spent many hours practicing at the shooting range, taking advantage of Clay’s impressive ability as a marksman. He also dedicated many loving, and sometimes painful, hours to the family’s homes’ lawns and garden to ensure they were always worthy of a second look!

Clay is survived by his wife, Nina; children, Glenda, Gary, and Greg; grandsons, Austin, Mason, and Clayton; sister, Mary Ellen Scoville; in-laws, (Joe Heronema, Jorge Villasenor); nieces, nephews, and cousins. Patti and Klaus Wolfenberger and Michelle Bearden gave such special care for Clay during his last few years / months. Clay was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Carl; and sister, Peggy Cole.

Unfortunately, Clay had struggled with poor health his last few years, but his faith, willpower, and endurance has kept him “with us”. We know he is now at peace. Clay and Nina have been blessed with many loving, supportive family and friends throughout their ninety-two years, and as Clay stated to Orval for his writings, “my life has been easier and richer because of my friendships”. In Clay’s last few weeks he told Nina, “we had a good and happy life” and we are all grateful for the part you have been in their (and our) lives!

Orval’s book closing: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. Matthew 25:21.

A celebration of Clay’s life will be 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at First United Methodist Church. A reception will immediately follow in the Christian Life Center.

Clay will be laid to rest at Geary Cemetery in Geary, Oklahoma.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, 1100 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901, The Caring Place of Hot Springs, 101 Quapaw Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901, or Garland County Jail Ministries, P.O. Box 725, Hot Springs, AR 71902.


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Previous Events

Service

Wednesday

21

Mar

1:30 PM
First United Methodist Church

1100 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, AR 71901

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