Throughout his lifetime Al White combined his love for jazz and photography to book and to promote world-class jazz musicians and to publish "Jazz Party," a superb jazz and photography collection.
Alfred Popkess "Al" White Jr. was born on Feb. 12, 1928, at Little Rock, Ark., to Alfred Popkess White Sr. and Mary Nell White.
White spent much of his early childhood in Russellville and Pine Bluff being influenced by his mother's love for jazz. Like his mother, White began collecting jazz records and became a lifelong fan of jazz music. During his childhood he was a huge fan of the Eddie Condon Dixieland Jazz Band.
In 1946, White graduated from the Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tenn. Before White left for the University of Arkansas, his parents gave him a camera and taught him how to shoot, develop and print his own photographs in a photo studio they set up in their basement.
In 1951, White graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor's degree in business association. He then joined the United States Army and served as first lieutenant and cryptographic officer in Washington, D.C., during the Korean War. In 1954, he returned to Pine Bluff to follow in his father's footsteps and became a cotton broker. Though he spent over 50 years as a cotton broker, White never forgot his love for jazz music or jazz musicians.
He traveled the world in pursuit of experiencing and promoting the best jazz acts. His travels usually included an annual trip to the West Jazz Party in Odessa, Texas. Over the years, White and his wife, Ann Rowell White, traveled across the country attending jazz parties underwritten by fans. White always photographed the jazz musicians as they played.
In the 1970s, White booked world-class jazz musicians to play events across Arkansas. As a result of attending so many jazz parties, being a superb jazz booker and photographer, he was respected by many greats in the jazz community.
In 2000, he published a jazz photography book entitled "Jazz Party," one of the best jazz photography collections in print. In 2002, White was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame.
Along with his jazz pursuits, White was an active Pine Bluff community member. He served as president of the Pine Bluff Rotary Club, senior warden at Trinity Episcopal Church, president of the Arkansas-Missouri Cotton Trade Association and as a board member of the American Cotton Shippers Association. Even so, White considered his over 48 year commitment to sobriety to be his greatest accomplishment.
White lived to be 92 years old. On July 20, 2020, he died at his home in Hot Springs, Ark., surrounded by his family.
This article is among features at explorepinebluff.com, a program of the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission. Sources: www.memorials.ralphrobinsonandson.com -- Obituary for Al White; www.arjazz.org -- Al White. Image Credit: www.memorials.ralphrobinsonandson.com
Ninfa O. Barnard wrote this article for Explore Pine Bluff.com.