The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Charlie White Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Dwaine Plaza and Natalia Fernández.

May 18, 2011


Charlie White was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1938. The youngest of nine children, White grew up playing sports including football, baseball, hockey, tennis and swimming, but eventually focused primarily on basketball. White attended and played ball at Detroit's Cass Technical High School before transferring to his neighborhood school, Northeastern High, from which he graduated.

In 1958, at the age of nineteen, White enlisted in the United States Army, primarily out of an interest in seeing the world. A member of the Army Infantry, White spent much of his service contributing to military basketball and track teams that were supported by the Army. As a member of these teams, White travelled around Europe, participating in a wide array of games, meets and tournaments.

After his discharge from the service, White enrolled at Monterey Peninsula College in California, where he continued to play basketball. During his two years at Monterey, White was recruited by OSU basketball coaches Slats Gill and Paul Valenti, and in 1964 he made the decision to transfer to Oregon State. In so doing, he became the first African American player recruited on scholarship to OSU, and only the second ever in the history of the program.

White made an immediate impact as a player. A 6'4" guard/forward, White led the team in rebounds and was the squad's second leading scorer during the 1964-65 campaign, which saw the Beavers compile a 16-10 record. The next season, as team captain, White averaged 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as the Beavers finished 20-7, won the Pacific-8 Conference championship, and defeated the University of Houston - led by future NBA great Elvin Hayes - in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Oregon State topped the nation in scoring defense that year, and White was named both All-Conference and All-American. The 1965-66 team's Pac-8 title marked the only time in a span of eighteen years that UCLA did not claim the conference championship.

In 1967, while still a student, White became OSU's Assistant to the Freshman Coach. He completed his coursework that Fall and graduated with a degree in Business Administration with the class of 1968, in the process becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

After leaving OSU, White was employed by the Crown-Zellerbach paper manufacturing company, based in Antioch, California, and given the specific charge to assist with integrating the company's workforce. He remained at Crown-Zellerbach for eight years, moving into production work and the personnel office during that time. From there, White took a position as regional safety manager with the LoneStar Industries construction firm. Later on in his career, White worked as the safety director for a shopping mall in San Francisco and was branch manager for a security firm based in Oakland. He concluded his years working in the private sector with a position at the Bayer corporation, based in Berkeley, California. He retired from Bayer in 2004 and spent an additional three-and-a-half years driving a school bus for mentally challenged youth.

Charlie White was inducted into the Oregon State Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Twenty years later, the Pacific-10 Conference inducted him into the league's Basketball Hall of Honor.