Alumni donate to new public library

By Nancy Neese Culver

Special to The Press

James Timothy (Tim) and Ruth Campbell White, 1958 and 1962 graduates of Martin High School, and Atlanta residents for several decades, made an early $25,000 donation to the Martin Library Foundation.

They have chosen to name the South Adult Reading Area in memory of their parents, Dr. Norman and Ruby Campbell, and James W.R. and Nell White, all longtime Martin residents.

“Library, books, reading and education . . . that is what the new Martin Public Library is all about and those four key factors describe at least three generations of Campbells and Whites. Supporting this wonderful new facility is more than a choice, it’s an obligation,” said Tim.

“When we were first approached about supporting the library, we were proud to join other MHS alumni in something that provided us an opportunity to give back to a community that played a pivotal role in shaping our lives,” Ruth added.

The parents being remembered are four special people who reared two exceptional families in Martin.

Dr. Norman Campbell arrived in Martin from his hometown of Greenfield to attend UTJC, then transferred to Knoxville to obtain his BS. For the next 35 years, he taught and served in various administrative roles at UT Martin ending as acting chancellor.

Norman retired at age 65, having spent his entire career in Martin, except for the two years he attended the University of Illinois to obtain his PhD in chemistry.

Ruby Robinson, also a Greenfield native, married Norman when she was 19. She earned her BA in Knoxville alongside her new husband. Later she received an MA, also from the University of Illinois. Ruby taught in the Martin Elementary School and later at MHS for many years.

The Campbells had three daughters. In addition to Ruth, Jane (MHS 1957) married Jack Mitchell (MHS1956) and was an elementary school teacher most of her adult years in Las Vegas, Nevada, before they retired to Carson City.

Jo Ellen Campbell Roe (MHS 1965, UTM BA 1968, and MS 1973) married Charles Roe, also a UTM graduate (BS 1972) and UT graduate (MS 1981). Her career has included corporate communications, writing, and 20 years of teaching at various public schools. Currently she teaches at Post University.    

James Whitcomb Riley White attended school in Halls, graduating in 1937. Unable to afford the $300 annual cost for college, he attended trade school in Nashville to become a linotype operator.

Upon completion, he took a job in Lexington, where he met his first wife, Martha Frances Hinson. Tim was born in December 1940. Three months after an automobile accident killed Tim’s mother, World War II erupted and James was quickly drafted. He served in Europe until the end of the war, during which time young Tim lived with James’ sister in Gulfport, Mississippi.

In 1943 James married Nell Ruth Burnett, a native of Coffee County. Nell graduated from Manchester High School and attended Martin Methodist College in Pulaski for one year. After the war James purchased the Weakley County Press and the family, including younger siblings, Marilyn and Jerry, moved to Martin in the fall of 1947, just in time for Tim to start the second grade at Martin Elementary.

James sold the WCP in 1963 but remained in Martin so all three children could graduate from MHS. In 1967 the family moved to McMinnville, where James was the editor and publisher of the Southern Standard.

Marilyn White Angelo (MHS 1964) and Jerry (MHS 1965) are both graduates of Vanderbilt University. Marilyn has lived in the San Francisco area for the last fifty years. Jerry has a law degree from UT Knoxville and practiced law in Atlanta until his retirement. Both were known for tootling around Martin in a 1961 straight-shift black Renault Dauphine.

Because Tim and Ruth lived in Martin as children and teenagers and attended Martin First Methodist, Martin Elementary and Martin High, they were on the periphery of each other’s lives from 1947 until 1957 when Tim was an MHS senior and Ruth was in the 8th grade.

At that time, both seniors and 8th graders were taught in the old MHS building facing Poplar Street, so Ruth was able to observe Tim from a distance and developed an unrequited crush on him.

Five years later Tim, half way through law school, saw Ruth for the first time since his MHS graduation and the tables turned. Those five years made a profound difference. This time Tim was smitten, but fate had other plans. Ruth married Don Myracle, a UTM engineering student, moved to Knoxville and had two children. Tim married Mary Bandy in Atlanta and had three children. A few years later, however, fate relented, swept away the obstacles and in April 1974, Ruth and Tim were married. Susan Rebecca was born in October 1975.

Reading has always been a part of Tim and Ruth’s lives, as well as their children’s.

Tim’s favorite reading subjects in his school years were science, theology, history and anything to do with St. Louis Cardinal baseball and UT football. He was a part of the 45-year-old student tradition of writing a WCP weekly column about MHS activities. He also contributed articles to the Volette and was a member of the Vanderbilt Law Review.

Tim completed the pre-law curriculum at UTM in 1960 and received his JD degree (Order of the Coif) from Vanderbilt Law School in 1964. He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar that summer and immediately accepted a position as an associate with an Atlanta law firm.

In 1972 he received an LLM in Commercial Law from Emory Law School. After his retirement in 2010, he completed the Creative Writing undergraduate program at Georgia State University. Encouraged by his daughters, he is writing a novel. The rest of his time is spent managing the family investments, reading and following current events.

Ruth is a ceaseless reader, preferring fiction to nonfiction. She believes she learns as much about history and human nature from reading well-written novels as from college courses. While substitute teaching at Trinity School in Atlanta, she met George Edvi-Illes, a renowned Hungarian artist with whom she studied for nine years. Painting has been an important part of her adult life. She maintains a studio for her work and regularly attends art classes and workshops.

Both Ruth and Tim enjoy taking their King Charles spaniels on walks and traveling. Their 13 grandchildren occupy a huge slice of their time.

Their three daughters and three sons lead busy lives of their own. Mary Ellen White Evangelista currently provides reading enrichment in grades K-4 in Atlanta. Lauren Ellen Myracle and Susan Rebecca White are both critically-acclaimed novelists.  Several of Lauren’s books have been New York Times best-sellers. Lauren’s “The Big Shrink,” the sixth volume of Upside Down Magic has just being released and a movie based on the series is currently being filmed for the Disney Channel.

Also, her book “Let It Snow” is in production for a Netflix movie. Susan has recently launched “We Are All Good People Here” from the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta. Eric Andrew Myracle is a mechanical engineer and James Andrew White is in accounting, both in Atlanta. Timothy Scott White is a corrections officer in Moose Lake, Minnesota.

Tim and Ruth do not take their Martin connections lightly as evidenced by three significant gifts to UT Martin. Several years ago, they established a fund to support art, music and literature programs at the University. Two of their daughters have participated in this.

After Norman’s death they funded a scholarship in his name for deserving students who intend to study chemistry. They have also provided in their estate plan to augment the annual salary of an outstanding professor of chemistry.

The Martin Public Library Foundation applauds their commitment to reading and education in Martin and thanks them for their generous contribution

“We are hoping that when Tim finishes his novel, he will present a copy to the library so many of the citizens of Martin can enjoy reading it in the South Adult Reading Room of the new Martin Public Library,” Foundation representatives noted.

Those who would like to join Ruth and Tim as donors to the library, contact Nick Dunagan or the MHS Foundation coordinators, Nancy Neese Culver and H.  David Spikes. Gifts of any size are welcome. To learn more about the new Martin Public Library, visit https://martinpubliclibrary.org.

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