Thomas Howard White was born in 1838 in Phillipston, Massachusetts. Mr. White received nothing more than a common school education, however, from his experiences in his father’s chair factory, and other jobs, he gained a reputation as a “master mechanic”. During the Civil War, he began manufacturing sewing machines in Templeton, Massachusetts, but in 1888, Mr. White moved the family business to Cleveland, Ohio, where he formed the White Manufacturing Company in 1870. The company became the second largest manufacturer of sewing machines in the world and is now the widely diversified company known as White Consolidated Industries.
In addition to his business interests, Mr. White found time to devote to public welfare. In 1876, he was elected to Cleveland City Council to represent Ward IV. He was ahead of his time on the issue of racial justice. White met Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of slaves, while vacationing in Florida in the 1870’s. She was the founder of the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School, a pre-collegiate school for girls. Mr. White became a trustee of the school and contributed generously to its support. Shortly after Mr. White’s death, Mrs. Bethune dedicated a large administrative building, White Hall, in his honor. This school evolved into Bethune-Cookman College.
Established in 1913, the Thomas H. White Foundation continues to reflect the concerns and interests of its founder, today focusing its grant making on organizations located in Cuyahoga County that provide early childhood enrichment, educational success and workforce readiness programs for City of Cleveland residents.