The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts: Volume 1


WHITE, William Clarence (1854-1937) and (first wife) Mary (née Kelsey) (1857-1890) and (second wife) Ethel May (née Lacey) (later Currow) (1873-1969)

Administrator, editorial and personal assistant to Ellen White, secretary of Ellen G. White Estate, and third son of James and Ellen White. Gifted in administration, by age 21 William White had already been elected president and business manager of the Pacific Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association. For the next 20 years the focus of his contributions lay in the area of church and institutional administration in America, Europe, and Australia. His particular strength was in the planning and organization of new institutions and church structures. Modern scholarship credits much of White's administrative success to the mentorship of his mother. Besides taking counsel from his mother on a range of administrative issues, evidence indicates that even in White's major innovative contributions, notably the introduction of the “union” level of church administration in the 1890s, he was responding to the insights that his mother had received in vision. 1EGWLM 910.2

In addition to his administrative responsibilities, after the death of James White in 1881 William became increasingly involved with assisting his mother in the work of editing and publishing her writings. Responding to Ellen White's encouragement, by the end of the 1890s White had divested himself of most of his administrative posts in order to devote himself more fully to supervising his mother's editorial staff, assisting with her voluminous correspondence, etc. 1EGWLM 910.3

William's first wife, Mary, employed her editorial skills in the offices of the Signs of the Times and the Youth's Instructor and assisted Ellen White in preparing her book manuscripts for the press. After a three-year battle with tuberculosis, contracted during her mission service in Europe with William, she died in 1890, age 33, leaving him with the care of his two daughters, Ella (age 8), and Mabel (age 3). Five years later he married Ethel May Lacey, of Tasmania. Another daughter and four sons were born of this union. 1EGWLM 910.4

White's close association with his mother led to allegations that he dominated the relationship and that on occasion he “manipulated” his mother's testimonies to further his personal agenda. Careful examination of the main allegations, including White's supposed influence over his mother on the issue of righteousness by faith at the 1888 General Conference session, indicates that the charges are not sustained. 1EGWLM 910.5

See: Obituary: “William Clarence White,” Review, Oct. 21, 1937, pp. 21, 22; obituary: “Mary Kelsey White,” Review, July 8, 1890, p. 430; obituary: “Ethel May Lacey White Currow,” Review, Oct. 23, 1969, p. 6; Jerry Allen Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White; SDAE, s.v. “Mary (Kelsey) White,” “May Lacey White Currow.” 1EGWLM 910.6