Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
White, Zebulon Lewis, 1842-89
Zebulon L. White (1842-1889), A1866, was a distinguished journalist and trustee of Tufts College. Tufts' second President A.A. Miner, in dedication to White, wrote, "The College reckons many noble men in the catalogue of its alumni, but none truer or nobler than Zebulon Lewis White."
White was born in Norton, Massachusetts, on July 23, 1842.He worked in a foundry as a young boy, and later as a laborer on a farm. He struggled mightily to obtain a college education and first came to the Hill with his younger brother G. Penn White in 1862.
After graduation, White wrote some freelance articles for a temperance journal. By 1867 he had joined the city staff of the New York Tribune, and moved quickly up the ranks. In 1869 White obtained a transfer to Washington as chief of the Tribunes' correspondence bureau, a position he held for over a decade. One of the exciting events of this period stemmed from his publication of the Washington Treaty (1871) in advance of its official dissemination. The Senate promptly imprisoned White for contempt, as he refused to reveal the source of his information.
This and similar episodes, though less colorful, are testaments to White's integrity and character, aspects noted by his contemporaries with awe. He was well-known for his loyalty, garnering him the confidence and esteem of Washington politicians who habitually distrusted members of the press. One obituary writer eulogized "he put himself, without pretension or reservation, into whatever he undertook."White's persistence and powers of retention were legend among his fellow classmates and colleagues. They observed that he was not the man who learned immediately what he wished, but rather he acquired the knowledge over time, and once in his head it was there for good.
From the Times, White moved on to the editorship of The Providence Press. From this publication he resigned, begging poor health, but he rallied briefly to contribute articles to The North American Review, Harpers Magazine, and other similar publications.
Zebulon L. White married twice, each time to a daughter of M.J. Drummond, and in his religious faith he was a Universalist.
At Tufts White was an ardent member of the Mathetican Society, a brother in Zeta Psi, and he used to take a notebook to sermons at Goddard Chapel in order to record them - practice for his career. He retained a powerful appreciation for his alma mater, and gladly served as Trustee from 1872 until his death seventeen years later.
In failing health, White and his family boarded ship to Bermuda in hopes of regaining his strength. Unfortunately he died within three weeks of his arrival, in the early morning hours of January 1, 1889.
Sources: VF; TN
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