Nellie Lee Clark White, 89, died on May 30, 2012.
Born in Lexington, Ga., and reared in Chattanooga, she was preceded in death by her husband, Carl E. White; parents, William Henry and Stella Clark; brother, Edgar Clark; sisters, Georgia Clark Reid, Eliza Clark Rounsaville and Julia Clark Wilkens; and sister-in-law, Willie Pearl Pope Ross (Detroit).
She was a graduate of Howard High School and Knoxville College and did further study at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She began her teaching career in Scottsboro, Alabama. She taught in the Chattanooga Public Schools for 30 years as a first grade teacher at Joseph E. Smith School and, later, as librarian at Sunnyside School. She created a reading pedagogy for her students which resulted in improved reading comprehension. She was known as a gentle teacher who became a second mother to many of her young students. Her classrooms were always bright, vibrant and happy places.
Extremely devoted to her two children, she nurtured and encouraged them to pursue their interests in the arts and education. She made sure that both of them received music, art and dance lessons and the terminal degrees in education. Her daughter, Melanye, is an accomplished dancer, choreographer and historian of African American Dance. Her son, Clark, a sociologist, is also the Blues Impresario “deaconbluz.” She made sure that her children and grandchildren were exposed to cultural venues and museums. Her interest in museums led her to complete the docent training program at the Hunter Museum of American Art. She also encouraged and supported her children to be physically active, Melanye as a dancer and Clark, as a swimmer.
She loved to travel to such places as the Caribbean and Hawaii. One of the favorite events she and her husband attended was the Black Derby, which was held at Churchill Downs a week after the Kentucky Derby. She loved watching horse races and other sports events on television.
She was a stylish dresser whose favorite colors were pink and yellow. In her later years, she participated in water aerobics at the downtown YMCA and home gardening. She was known as a consummate bibliophile who loved to keep up with current events. In her later years, she and her son, Clark, spent time every Sunday discussing and debating current events they read about in the New York Times and the Chattanooga Times. She also enjoyed playing bridge, scrabble and other board games.
Her favorite public figures were former President Bill Clinton, whom she called a “lil’ rascal”; President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Her favorite singer was Dinah Washington. She liked modern jazz and standard Gospel. Her favorite actors were LaTanya Richardson and her husband, Samuel L. Jackson.
A very spiritual woman, she belonged to the Warren chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church where she was a member for more than eighty years. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. the Knoxville College Alumnae Association, Witoka Bridge Club, the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Watch Association and Church Women United. Through her interest in promoting Black Family life, she held local and national affiliations and was a local charter member of Jack and Jill, Inc., a national Black mother’s organization.
Affectionately known as “Mama Nellie” and “Grandma Nellie”, she is survived by her son, Dr. Clark Eldridge (Karen Diamond) White; daughter, Dr. Melanye (Kevin) White Dixon; granddaughters, Kenya Ife White (Carlos) Terry, Tsigie N’Kolo White (Charles) Robinson, Maya Tsigie Dixon; great-granddaughter, Chloe Rae Terry; and dear friend, Mildred Keith.
Extended family members include Dorothy Seay Lawson, Kelley Seay, Brian (Dawn) Seay, Amanda Seay, Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Anderson, Mrs. Ira Joe Johnson, Ms. Geraldine Johnson, Mr. Walter (Dorothea) Johnson, Jr. and brother-in-law Washington DuBois Ross and family (Detroit).
Graveside service will be held on Monday, June 4, at 11:30 a.m. at National Cemetery with Dr. Terrance L. Mayes, Sr. and Reverend Dr. Eva Settles, Eulogist. Interment will be in National Cemetery.
The body will lie in state after noon on Sunday, June 3, with the family receiving friends from 6–7 p.m. at John P. Franklin Funeral Home, 1101 Dodds Ave., 622-9995.