Mayor Jack Graham presents Barry White with a plaque thanking him for his six years of service to city council and four years as mayor. It was
Mayor Jack Graham presents Barry White with a plaque thanking him for his six years of service to city council and four years as mayor. It was White's final meeting as he passed along his duties upon the swearing in of Graham. (Casey Holder)

One of Barry White’s most trying periods during his four years as mayor came fairly early on, about a year in, when fires erupted around Possum Kingdom Lake.

The Young County Sheriff, Brian Walls, asked White if he had physically seen the fires.

“We went down there and it was unbelievable,” said White from under a well-worn Steers ball cap. “We went down to Bunger, and all you could see in every direction were fires, nothing but fires, it was like what you think Hell looks like. It was really spooky.”

White is a transplant to Graham, having moved from Fort Worth in 1988.

“I’m not a quote ‘Grahamite.’ I wasn’t born here,” said White. 

Those who worked on the city council with White say mayor was never a position White sought.

“I would seriously doubt it was a life dream of Barry’s to be the mayor of a town,” said Jack Graham, White’s succecessor as mayor. 

The position opened up and someone needed to step up, he said. White did a great job and never asked for a thank you and never asked for public recognition, Graham said.

“Not only did Barry not seek the position of Mayor, I think there probably behind the scenes was some arm bending that took place to get him to agree to be mayor,” joked retired Graham City Manager Larry Fields. “Once he accepted, like Barry does, that’s his personality, once he agreed to do it he certainly applied himself and did a great job.”

The most significant public project that White said he was involved in was the update and expansion of the water plant, an initiative that came up within the first three budgets White sat in during his six years as a councilman prior to being mayor. 

“We didn’t have that kind of money hanging around and so it got put off, and it got put off,” White said. “It was something that needed to be done, needed to be done, needed to be done, and then all of a sudden we looked up and it didn’t need to be done. It had to be done. We didn’t have a choice.”

The project was Fields’ swan song; the last thing he wanted to get done before retiring, White explained. 

Pre-construction meetings for the first phase of that project are set to happen next week. 

Those who worked with White say what made him so effective as an elected official was his ability to give all matters that came before the council the same amount of care, thought and consideration from big to small.  

“He’s a quiet guy, wasn’t terribly outspoken but thorough,” said Graham. 

Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.