Betty J. Lewis Unsung Hero, Robert J. White
The SAU Tech Black History Celebration Committee is excited to announce Robert J. White as the July 2021 Betty J. Lewis Unsung Hero.
Each year the Black History Celebration Committee, comprised of college staff and community members, hosts an annual fundraiser to raise money for the Betty J. Lewis Minority Scholarship Fund. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Black History Celebration was canceled. In lieu of this event, the Black History Celebration Committee made the decision to name a Betty J. Lewis Unsung Hero for each month leading up to the 2022 event.
Robert J. White was born on August 29, 1950, in Laran, LA, to Tice White, Jr, and Clansie White. He was raised in Hillsboro, AR. He graduated from Washington High School, class of ‘68’ in El Dorado, AR. After high school, he worked approximately two years at J. M. Poultry in El Dorado until he was drafted into the Army, where he served from March 1970 – November 1971 and obtained the rank of Specialist 4. He also received the Soldier of the month, 5th CST BDE in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.
After returning from military service, Robert enrolled at SAU Tech on July 72 and graduated in July 74 with an AAS Degree in Food Management with honors. He was the 1st graduate to be hired at SAU Tech immediately after graduation. He worked as Asst. Cafeteria and Instructor, Asst. Professor and several Administrator positions before retiring after 41 years of service in the position of Director of Special Programs and Educational Services. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from SAU Magnolia. He is a graduate of the Holiday Inn University General Manager Program, where he was the 1st African American to graduate from the program. He is a 1996 graduate of Leadership Camden, and a 2014 graduate of Leadership Arkansas Sponsored by Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
He has been married to the former Ora Lee Spiller for 47 years, who is also retired. They have 3 children, Tice (Tonya) of Madison, MS; Brice of Fayetteville, AR; and BriTicea of Madison, MS; and 2 precious granddaughters, Tia (5) ‘Big Girl’, and Tamia (3) ’Little Sissy’ of Madison, MS.
He is a member of Whitest Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Camden, where Rev. Michael J. Wilson is the Pastor. He serves numerous positions including Chair, Kitchen Committee; Teacher, Men Sunday School class; and Chair, Deacon Ministry. He served as President of the Community Brotherhood. In addition to those, he has served in various positions in the Ouachita District Association as an Instructor in the Congress of Christian Education, member of the Executive Committee, and President of the District Laymen Auxiliary.
Robert has dedicated his entire 47 years in Camden to being involved in Community Service and Politics to try and make individuals’ lives better through social change and education. In doing so he has served on many local boards and commissions: such as Vice President, Camden Jaycees; Chair, People are Concerned; Chair, Christmas Sharing Program; Chair, Camden Fairview Biracial Committee; Chair, Toys for Tots Ouachita County; 1st black President of SAU Tech Faculty Organization; Chair, Ouachita County Democratic Party; Ouachita County Election Commission, Board of Directors of Camden Boys and Girls Club; Chair, SAU Tech Admin Staff; Women Crisis Center Board; and member of NAACP. He has served on several State and National committees including Arkansas Student Loan Authority Board of Directors; State Workforce Board; Chair, Boys State of Arkansas; Arkansas Career Coach Program Advisory Board; Chair, EAST (Education Accelerated by Service Technology Initiative; Arkansas Career and Technical Education Board; 13th Judicial Jail Standard Committee; Board member of UAPB Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office Tobacco Initiatives. He served on the 1st Arkansas Educational Adequacy Committee (to determine what is an adequate education and what amount of money is needed to provide it); and the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP).
Robert ran for State Representative in 1998 and won and was sworn in January 1999. He served 3 two-year terms until he was term-limited. The highlights of his service were the sponsoring and passage of ACT 1332 that created the Better Chance Program, which is a high-quality preschool; and ACT 1396 to provide minimum Firefighter Training Standards, and he was instrumental in directing several hundred thousand dollars to Ouachita County during his tenure. Robert passed several more bills on Voting Rights, Education Issues, Safety, and Welfare Reform. He was the 1st and only black to serve as House Management Chairman in the Arkansas House of Representatives. He was Chair of the two-year Colleges and Technical Institute Study Committee. He was Treasurer of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus and served on Joint Budget Committee and the House Education Committee.
Robert has been recognized with many awards during his lifetime. Some of the most prestigious are: Arkansas 2001 Outstanding Alumnus for Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges; 2002 NISOD Excellence Award (National Institute for Staff and Organization Development); Meritorious Service Award SAU Tech, May 2003; named 2014 Outstanding State Employee for the State of Arkansas; recognized by UAPB for being identified as the Flagship of the Delta. He also was recognized by JET magazine for his many contributions to education. Robert thanks the Lord and the community for giving him the opportunity to serve in all the above capacities in the community and state.