Nathaniel B. White was born in Hertford, North Carolina in 1914. He was the third of four boys in the family. When the boys' mother died during the influenza epidemic of 1919, the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where their father had been working on World War I contracts. White lived there with his brothers, his father, and his aunt, Essie-May Redd.
Nathaniel White's childhood in Norfolk was filled with activity. Outside of school, White was active in the Baptist church. In 1928, he also became one of the founding members of Boy Scout Troop 72, the first black troop in Norfolk. While attending Booker T. Washington High School, White also worked delivering the Norfolk Journal and Guide, the area's black newspaper. It was in this job that he first became interested in the printing business.
White graduated from Booker T. Washington in 1932. His Aunt Essie-May encouraged and helped him to continue his education. That year, White enrolled in a program to study printing at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. Two years later, White's younger brother George enrolled in the same program. After graduating, White took a job with the printing department of the Carolina Tribune in Raleigh, North Carolina.
After working at the Tribune for two years, White and his younger brother George joined two business associates to purchase the Service Printing Company, located on Fayetteville Street in Durham, North Carolina's prosperous Hayti district. In the 1940s, Hayti was the home to many vibrant businesses, most of which were owned by black businessmen. White continued to work at the Service Printing Company until 1983 when he retired as its president.
In 1941, White married Jean Elizabeth Briscoe, a childhood sweetheart whom he had known in Norfolk. They had two sons, Nathaniel, Jr., and Joseph. Nathaniel White, Jr. in the first class of black students to graduate from Duke University. Joseph White went to Florida A & M University where he studied printing, later joining his father in the family business.
White has been active in his community throughout his adult life. He has been an active member of the White Rock Baptist Church for more than fifty years. He served as Scoutmaster to Boy Scout Troop 55 from 1942 until 1968 and has continued to work with the troop until the present. He has also been a member of the Durham Business and Professional Chain and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.
interviewed by Robb Carroll
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