O.C. White was the consummate radio announcer, personality and community messenger. Marshall McLuhan is credited with saying: “The medium is the message”, meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. The medium became the message with O.C. White, and White became the message!.
Born in Greenwood,Mississippi, White attended MPS schools and graduated from Lincoln High school, and matriculated at UWM, where he received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees, and his PhD. from Union Graduate School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Blessed with an outstanding voice and the ability to rhyme and lyrically mesh words, concepts and thoughts, O.C. was a griot, even as a teenager. Today, we probably would have called him a rapper. Yet, his message was always clean, crisp and designed to uplift and build community.
A historian, a people-person and a connector, by nature, White’s expose‘, on the web, about the history of Black radio, in Milwaukee, remains one of the best examples of this legend of the media of the 50’; the turbulent 60’s, the growth infused 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
O.C. White was often described as Milwaukee’s Black Mayor, particularly during the mayoral years of Henry Maier. Mayor Maier met with him during the Riots of 1965, the Commando marches over the 16th Street Viaduct; and for community in-put in the re-development of areas and services, under Community Development grants.
The O.C. White Soul Club, a non-profit, was incorporated and led by White and his wife Joyce. The two shared an impassioned interest in community, equality and access. The needs, within the geographic boundaries, described as the central city, were continuing to grow as more people were coming to the state. And, the O.C. White Soul Club became a first-stop source for many who were arriving.
The issues affecting housing, schools, employment, electoral equity, the criminal justice system, care of dependent children, senior care and independence, and economic and business development were increasing. The ways to address this myriad of problems were demanding and often-times controversial. O.C’s Show was a forum for listeners to vent, share and to propose concepts, all important vehicles for citizen in-put and expression.
The O.C. White Soul Club became an inner city resource designed to deal with many of these issues. Services like home rehabilitation, food assistance, jobs, gang prevention and the Central City Scholarship Organization were part of the Soul Club programs. At its height, the O.C. White Soul Club was servicing more than 2000 people annually. And O.C. was working around the clock attempting to meet many of the needs.
Milwaukee will long remember, respect and acknowledge the contributions of O.C and Joyce White. Their commitment to change in the city of Milwaukee, particularly during the post civil rights days, remains undeniable. And many of the elected officials, equal housing opportunities, services for seniors and dependent children are directly attributable to the voice, dedication and the passion of O.C. White.
White, the masterful communicator, brought the message directly to the community and took the issues of the community to the Mayor. Most listeners of WAWA, and the O.C. White Show, viewed him, as the man WITH the voice and a “VOICE” for the community. This pioneer’s voice still bellows in the memory-base of those who remember him. We thank him and we salute his lovely wife Joyce…..a legend in her own right.