Thomas “Tommy” White of Blanchester was first and foremost a policeman.
Tommy began his career in law enforcement with the City of Wilmington as a police officer in 1954. He joined a trio of three devoted and dedicated police sergeants – Bob Vanscoy, Charlie Lyon and Frank Copeland.
Each of the men had distinct personalities and unique policing techniques.
Sergeant Vanscoy had a gruff voice, but a heart of gold. In the early days when riding a bicycle on the sidewalk became a violation, Sergeant Vanscoy could be heard saying, “Son, get that bike off the sidewalk before I take it to the police station.” It didn’t take long for the young offender to dismount from his or her Schwinn and walk it home.
Sergeant Lyon and Sergeant Copeland were professionals in every sense of the word. They were strong leaders and the officers under their commands looked up to them.
Sergeant White was a strong leader, too. He was a friendly, personable individual who communicated well with people.
They worked at a time when there were foot patrol officers in downtown Wilmington, and none of the officers carried portable radios. In fact, Tommy, along with the other officers, survived on the streets solely by their quick wits.
At that time, the Wilmington Police Department had only two cruisers. Most of the time the officers walked a beat downtown, standing in the middle of the intersection with a whistle in their mouths — and courage against the onslaught of busy traffic whizzing through Locust and South streets.
Chief White had a wonderful career as chief of police in Wilmington. Like any law enforcement agency, the department had its tests and trials, and as its leader, the chief faced some difficult cases.
Tommy once said the most challenging case he faced was the tragic shooting that occurred in the 1970s at Scotty’s Restaurant on Wayne Road.
After he retired from police work, Tommy returned to his hometown of Blanchester. His titled changed from Chief White to Mayor White, serving as Mayor of Blanchester for four years.
Tommy often spoke in the third person.
“Jack Haley come over here! Tommy White is going to give ‘Big Jack’ a hug,” he once said when my brother Jack, who served with Tommy for many years on the Wilmington Police Department, had stopped at the Blanchester Municipal Building to visit the new mayor.
This past week has been a tough one our friend, Bill Liermann.
Bill lost two men this week he loved and respected. Bill’s father, Gordon, passed away last Wednesday evening, and Chief White’s death came a few hours earlier.
“Tom’s passing hit me like a ton of bricks,” Bill said last week. “We had a great professional working relationship when I came to town as newsman for WKFI Radio. I was honored that he asked me to emcee his retirement party in 1983.”
Over the past year, Bill said he faithfully visited his old friend in Blanchester on Sundays, before or after visiting his own parents who lived in Butlerville, just on the other side of Blanchester.
Bill said Tommy loved his time as Chief of Police in Wilmington, and tried really hard to move Blanchester forward as the mayor.
In the past few years, one of the highlights of the year for Tommy was the Wilmington Police Department Wreath Laying Ceremony in honor of two Wilmington Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty.
Dave Lieurance and current Wilmington Chief of Police Duane Weyand organized the ceremony several years ago, which is held at Sugar Grove Cemetery.
Two years ago, Chief White proudly attended the gathering in his dress police uniform, which still fit him well, 30 years after his retirement. His shoes were shined to a high gloss, and his white shirt and uniform didn’t have a wrinkle.
The veteran chief stood out in a sea of dark suites and white shirts among the tombstones and trees. It was a fitting tribute for those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty for the citizens of the City of Wilmington
“Last call, Chief Tommy White. Thank you for your service. You will be missed. R.I.P.,” Bill added.
Thomas Edmond White of Blanchester passed away peacefully — just as he lived — on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at the age of 87. He left two loving sons, Gary and Dana White.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner.