NORFOLK—The Rev. Hugh C. White III, 81, died on February 6, 2020, at Province Place of DePaul in Norfolk.
Born in Nashville, Tenn., he was the son of the late Hazelle Summitt White and Hugh Couch White, Jr. After several moves with his family he returned to Nashville, where he graduated from Hillsboro High, then enrolled at Virginia Tech to study architecture and to join the cadet corps, in which he served as adjutant. Called to ordained ministry, he changed his major, and after graduation he served two years in the U.S. Army, leaving as a first lieutenant. Next he earned his Master of Divinity at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.
Upon ordination in 1966 the Rev. Mr. White became the Vicar of three Episcopal churches of Botetourt County, including St. Mark’s, Fincastle, and parishes in Buchanan and Eagle Rock. While there, he actively promoted efforts to combat poverty, and founded Mission Impossible, an ecumenical youth center.
Recognizing another community need, with a local judge he established a chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. Later he served other parishes of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, first as Rector of Christ Church, Pulaski, 1968-1971, then as Rector of Emmanuel, Staunton, 1971-1982, and Chaplain at Stuart Hall School. Concurrently he was a reader for the National Liturgical Commission, Prayer Book revisions.
While in Staunton he learned sign language and reached out to the staff and students of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. At Stuart Hall he initiated a community action program as a credit course called “Faith at Work.” Students learned some sign language and did field work at four area institutions. Along with the daughter of a former rector of Emmanuel, he founded the Meals on Wheels program for the town.
He advocated for the mentally ill, especially after deinstitutionalization became the norm. The National Association for Mental Health recognized his efforts with awards in 1975, 1976 and 1978.
In 1982, Mr. White accepted a call to St. Paul’s Church, Norfolk, where his love of history and architecture served him well. While in the Diocese of Southern Virginia he chaired the Diocesan Department of Stewardship, and was elected as delegate to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church for the fourth time in his career.
He initiated renovations to the church, including installation of an 18th century reredos, improved lighting, and the replacement of several windows with the clear class appropriate for a colonial church. Through the auspices of the Day Care and Child Development Center of Tidewater he led the effort to host the first licensed infant day care center in the area.
It was his vision that led St. Paul’s to join forces with Grace Church, Norfolk, to found Plumbline Ministries, which in its first 10 years or so of operation renovated or built 50 or more homes in the Brambleton area.
In 1996, Mr. White accepted a call as rector to Grace Church, Kilmarnock, where he was also responsible for conducting services and for board membership at Historic Christ Church, Weems. He established the Grace Trust, and initiated physical improvements to the Grace Church building. One of his favorite projects was the annual yard sale in which the whole parish participates. At his urging, the church made the commitment to contribute all profits from the sale, several tens of thousands of dollars annually, to charitable organizations in the community.
Retiring in 2004 from Grace, Mr. White continued his lifelong interest in collecting antiques, and pursued his avocation of restoring paintings and frames for himself and others. For five months in 2005 he led Abingdon Church in Gloucester through a period of transition.
He continued in his active role at Historic Christ Church, serving as vice-president, then as president of the Foundation. In 2016, the board recognized his contributions with the Louise Belote Dawe Award.
In 38 years of ordained ministry, Mr. White demonstrated his commitment to putting faith in action as member or chair of numerous diocesan entities. He volunteered his time to dozens of organizations, boards, and educational institutions outside the parish, and energetically promoted outreach efforts. Meanwhile he sponsored countless church members for confirmation, and conducted memorable baptism, marriage, and funeral services. He spoke his sermons, rather than reading them, and they always contained illustrations from current events or his personal experience. He was also a fine counselor, and a pastor known both for his empathy and his humor.
He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Laurie Winchester-White, and by three sons, Charles Andrew White (Charlotte) of Norfolk; David Dickson White of Seattle, Wash.; Adam Winchester White of Charleston, S.C.; two grandsons, Charles Andrew White Jr., and Benjamin Thomas White; and his sister, Virginia St. John, of Hattiesburg, Miss.
A memorial service will take place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 15. Interment will follow at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at Historic Christ Church Cemetery, Weems.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to any of the churches he served, to the Alzheimer’s Association, or to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
H.D. Oliver Funeral Apartments, Norfolk Chapel, and Currie Funeral Home LLC, Kilmarnock, are handling arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to the family through hdoliver.com.