Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Memorial grows for fallen state trooper

The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team will return to Little Rock Air Force Base in the fall for another air show.
The Blue Angels have flown here several times, but on their next visit they will make a short detour to a small Jacksonville park that honors the memory of State Trooper Jimmie White, who died after he escorted the Blue Angels’ motorcade to the air base in June 2002.

When the Blue Angels visit the park, they might place a wreath in memory of a fellow American who wore a different kind of uniform. They will see flowers blooming and a walking trail and a bridge that crosses a creek, a fitting memorial to an all-around good guy.

As the fourth anniversary of Trooper White’s death approaches, his family, friends and community leaders are looking to expand this moving tribute to a young man in uniform who gave his life to his community.

Perhaps a second bridge will be completed and more walking trails added before the Blue Angels visit.
The Jimmie H. White II Memorial Park is on the north side of Jacksonville, just a mile or two from the main gate to the air base. Bart Gray Realty donated the pond and the land for the park, which is near where Trooper White grew up and lived until his untimely death at the age of 32.

“He spent a lot of time fishing there,” his father, Jimmie White I, recalled Tuesday. “We’re delighted we can preserve it in his memory.”

“He touched a lot of people in his life,” he told us. “He was a fantastic person.”

Donations are needed for improvements to the park. The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is considering making a gift, and at least one anonymous donor may step forward to honor Trooper White’s memory.

A motorcycle ride June 3 from Jacksonville High School to El Paso will help raise money for the park and for scholarships.
Joyce Meerdink, a personnel director at Wal-Mart and a neighbor who has spent countless hours improving the park with other Wal-Mart associates, says another bridge would cost about $1,000. The city has agreed to add asphalt to the trail and build a picnic pavilion.

In the Northwood Acres neighborhood where the park is located, all the streets have Indian names, except for T.P. White Drive, named after the former planning commissioner.

The trooper’s father was a Pulaski County sheriff’s deputy. His son dreamed of going into law-enforcement one day and ride a motorcycle like his dad.

The young man started out in the sheriff’s department, then became a state trooper and rode a motorcycle until that fateful summer day in 2002.

He was killed on June 1, 2002 while “leapfrogging” to clear traffic for the motorcade.

The Blue Angels headlined both days of a weekend air show at the base.

In “leapfrogging,” an officer stops traffic for a motorcade. After the motorcade passes through the intersection, the officer passes it on the left to stop traffic at the next unsecured intersection.

The motorcade was headed east on C.M.Sgt. Williams Drive near the base flight line.

As White was passing a patrol car, driven by his direct supervisor, Sgt. Darryl Hall, Hall started a left turn into a security-gate entrance at the base, and the two vehicles collided. White died of head injuries at University Hospital in Little Rock. The trooper was wearing his helmet at the time of the accident.

Hundreds of people attended his funeral, including Gov. Huckabee.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a funeral as big as that,” the trooper’s father recalled Tuesday. “That’s an indication how many lives he touched.”

One may send park donations to Jimmie White I, 108 Chickesaw Place, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076.