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Hall of Fame Communicator Tom White dies

February 04, 2019

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Hall of Fame Communicator Tom White, who kept harness racing in the headlines, and helped put fans in the stands for many years as publicist at The Red Mile, Scioto Downs and the Little Brown Jug/Delaware County Fair, died Monday morning (Feb. 4) at Sayre Christian Village in Lexington, Ky. He was 84. He had been in poor health since suffering a major stroke four years ago.

Thomas Wayne White joined in death his sweetheart of 60 years, Frankie (Frances Thornbury White), where they are surely cheering the University of Kentucky Wildcats at center court or the 50-yard line.

He will be missed dearly by his children, Scott White (Susan) and Marianne Mosley (Gary), and four grandchildren, Caroline and Nathanael White and Emily and Elizabeth Mosley. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Jon White and Mary (Bloxham) White. 

A native of Plymouth, Ind., near South Bend, he grew up rooting for Notre Dame and the Chicago White Sox. However, following a Bear Bryant-led University of Kentucky Sugar Bowl championship in 1951, he traveled south to Lexington’s greener pastures and the University of Kentucky.

He made the most of his matriculation even though Bear Bryant left, pledging Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, writing for the Kentucky Kernel — he was sports editor his senior year, and meeting the love of his life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After graduation, he became a sports writer for the Lexington Leader, covering high school sports, Transylvania University basketball, back-up UK football and basketball, and harness racing. He had a regular high school sports column called “The White Line.”

While covering harness racing for the Leader, he fell in love with the sport. He left the newspaper to become a writer and reporter for The Horseman and Fair World and Hoof Beats magazines. In 1974, he took a job as director of publicity and public relations at The Red Mile and Tattersalls horse sales. He was a regular fixture on local TV and radio, wrote regular features in the Lexington Herald-Leader, and inaugurated the famous Memorial Day Chili Cook-Off and Concerts at the Red Mile. He wrote two books, Harness Racing History in Kentucky and A Century of Speed, a compendium of stories, photographs, and interviews celebrating the centennial of The Red Mile.

After almost 15 years, he left The Red Mile to direct publicity and public relations at Scioto Downs racetrack in Columbus, Ohio. He returned to Lexington and continued writing for Standardbred trade magazines as well as coordinating publicity for The Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio, the third leg of pacing’s Triple Crown.

In 2005 he was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame’s Harness Writers of America in Goshen, New York.

He mentored many college students and young harness racing colleagues and taught a course in sports writing at Eastern Kentucky University. He was an avid reader, loved history, and took classes through UK’s Donovan Scholars program. He was a lifelong learner who was nevertheless somewhat perplexed by technology. Colleagues will remember him pounding on his laptop keys with the same enthusiasm he employed on the manual typewriter he brought with him to college.

He was an active member of Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, where he served as an elder. He was active in Men of Maxwell and spent many years as an usher, greeting members and visitors with his trademark friendliness, kindness, sense of humor, and gift of gab.

A celebration of his life will be held at a date announced later at the Red Mile.

He will be cremated and asked that his ashes be spread all over God's green earth; more specifically, the Red Mile; UK Commonwealth Stadium; Notre Dame football field; Plymouth, Indiana; Delaware, Ohio race track; Goshen, NY, and Comiskey Park.


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