Hal White: A quarterback way back when
And a safety.
And a kicker.
And a punter.
And the captain.
“He was just about all I had,” says Jim Drewry, whose first year as head coach at Booneville High was Hal White’s senior season of 1965. “The thing about it was Hal played hurt almost that entire season and he was still our best player.
“He was my best athlete and I always tried, in all my years of coaching, to have my best athlete at quarterback,” Drewry continued.
Jim Drewry went on to become the winning-est football coach in the rich and storied history of Mississippi high school football. His teams won 347 games.
His first Booneville team won one. They lost eight and tied one.
“We’d have won a whole lot more if I had had more Hal Whites,” Drewry said Thursday, shortly after he had learned of Hal White’s death.
“We’re just devastated up here in Booneville,” Drewry said. “Everybody loves Hal and the entire White family.”
Much of Jackson and mid-Mississippi is devastated, too. I have lived in this town for nearly 34 years now. I can’t tell you how much better, more entertaining and more interesting Hal and Malcolm White have made my adopted hometown.
Malcolm was the front man for Hal and Mal’s, the heartbeat of Jackson. Hal mostly worked behind the scenes. Through tough economic times and stalled downtown development, they have teamed to turn an old, dilapidated depot warehouse into a Jackson insitution.
I can not imagine this town without Hal and Mal’s.
Hal always has run the kitchen with his trademark soiled apron and alternating scowls and smiles. His specialties have been gumbos, bisques and soups.
Hal had taken his last breath only a few minutes earlier Thursday afternoon at St. Dominic and Malcolm had just come down from ICU to greet mourning friends in the critical care waiting room.
Hugs and tears were exchanged and then one of us asked Malcolm if there was anything we could do to help the family in any way.
Malcolm thought for a long second.
“Can you cook soup?” he said, and managed a chuckle. “Seriously, what are we going to do without Hal’s soup?”
We’re going to miss a lot more than his soup, of course.
We’ll miss his stories about Booneville High and Mississippi State. We’ll miss the gleam in his eye when he talked about his family, especially the lovely Ann. We’ll miss him holding court at his corner of his bar.
We will miss the huge part he played in Hal and Mal’s Oyster Open, a tournament he founded and never won or came close to winning, although he always, always seemed to have the most fun.
It’s the only tournament in which I’ve played in a group that let two other groups play through because we were too busy eating oysters on the half shell.
Hal was one of those golfers who loved to play no matter what he shot.
“I’m a bogey golfer,” he told me. “I’ll always be a bogey golfer. I might as well be a happy bogey golfer.”
He wasn’t about to let a shank here or a three-putt there ruin a nice stroll in the sun with good friends and cold beer.
There’s a lesson in there for the rest of us.