Tell Thompson White

Tell Thompson White
B.S.C.E. 1915

Tell Thompson White of Pocahontas, Arkansas, a prominent figure in the field of petroleum engineering, was inducted into the University of Arkansas College of Engineering Hall of Fame during Engineer’s Week on the campus in the spring 1969. A graduate of the University with a degree in civil engineering in 1915 at the age of 18, he was the youngest student ever to have received a degree from that institution up until that time, having completed the 4-year course in only three years and finishing fourth in his class.

The son of S. M. and Ella Thompson White, born January 15, 1897, and a graduate of Pocahontas High School, Tell T. White spent almost his entire career working for the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission, and most of that in the capacity as chief petroleum and gas engineer. According to an article in the May 26, 1964, issue of the Arkansas Gazette upon White’s imminent retirement from the SEC, White was “rated so highly in his field that a Commission spokesman said the agency had abandoned its efforts to find one man who could match White’s knowledge of oil and gas production and prospecting, oil and gas law, and oil and gas securities. Instead, it is training two men to take White’s job. . . He knows more about oil and gas production in the United States than any other one man.”

In the same article, one attorney was quoted as saying that “White knows his business so well that opposing lawyers who know him won’t even cross-examine him.” A U.S. district attorney once told White to his face that an opposing lawyer in an SEC case “threatened to call dozens of oil experts to establish the sincerity of their petroleum reserve estimates.” But the district attorney added, “I can attribute the failure to go through with this threat only to his knowledge that they would have to face you in rebuttal”.

Tell White had previously been singled out as one of the University of Arkansas’ “Distinguished Alumni” in 1962 with his citation noting that “White had saved the government and private investors millions of dollars” during his tenure with the SEC. In addition, White on two occasions was named for the National Civil Service League’s annual Career Service Award.  He presented papers at engineering societies in locations across the U.S., including Los Angeles and Houston. He was a member of the Tau Beta Pi, honorary engineering fraternity, the Blue Lodge of the Masonic Order, the Presbyterian Church and a proud veteran of World War I.

Following his retirement, Tell and his wife, Lillian (“Mickey”) Haltom White, retired back to his hometown of Pocahontas, Arkansas, where they enjoyed their final years together.  Tell died January 19, 1973, and his wife, Mickey, died May 5, 1979. Tell and Mickey had no children, but Tell can claim two first cousins as graduates of the U of A College of Engineering: Sam William Thompson, B. S. Chem E (1943) and Everett Eugene Thompson BSEE (1949); and in addition, two more recent U of A College of Engineering graduates who are grandsons of Everett: Bailey Kyle Hamilton BSME (2015) and Dawson Grant Hamilton BSME (2021).

The legacy of U of A Engineering carries on through the generations.