State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, presents Waxahachie Daily Light Publisher/Editor Neal White with a proclamation from Texas Gov. Rick Perry commissioning White as an Honorary Admiral in Texas Navy; Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Pat Merrill presents Waxahachie Daily Light Publisher/Editor Neal White with his first salute after being commissioned as an honorary admiral in the Texas Navy. The ceremony took place during the June 26 meeting of the Waxahachie Rotary Club. Photos by Scott Dorsett/The Waxahachie Daily Light
BY DONNIS BAGGETT
Waxahachie Daily Light publisher and editor Neal White is having a heck of a year.
So far in 2014, White has:
- Been promoted to publisher of the paper he has served since 1997.
- Celebrated his daughter's college graduation.
- Signed a publishing contract for his first novel.
- Led his newspaper to a sweepstakes victory in the Texas Press Association Better Newspapers Contest.
- Been named an admiral of the Texas Navy.
Yes, an admiral. In the Navy. The Texas Navy.
If you didn't know there was such a thing as an admiral in the Texas Navy — or that there even was a Texas Navy — you're not alone. The admiralty is an honorific, similar to that of a Kentucky colonel. And there hasn't been a Texas Navy in 169 years.
White, 52, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, served a three-year stint as a U.S. Navy journalist, then three years in the Navy Reserve as a combat photographer. He didn't see action, but the Navy left its mark on him.
Decades later, White made an offhand comment while musing about "bucket lists" with a friend, Waxahachie advertising agency owner Bob Lynn.
"I said one of the things I'd like to achieve was being named admiral of the Texas navy...and the next thing I know, I'm being called before the Rotary Club in Waxahachie and I'm being presented with a commission as admiral of the Texas Navy."
The Daily Light's newsroom staff was on hand for the surprise announcement. They were being feted by Rotary for winning sweepstakes and several other TPA Better Newspaper Contest honors a week earlier in Corpus Christi. Basking in the glow of that moment with his staff and fellow Rotarians, White thought the meeting was about to end.
"Then they said, 'Neal, would you stay up here for a minute?' and next thing I know, (Representative) Jim Pitts comes up and he starts reading this proclamation from Governor Perry, and I was just blown away."
Why does Texas name each honoree an "admiral" instead of a colonel or a general? "Because Texas is the only state that at one point had their own navy," White explained.
White's neighbors and readers are enjoying addressing the veteran newsman by his new title.
"This is such a wonderful community," he said. "Everybody is so supportive. I still get people who poke their head in my office and say, 'Hey, Admiral, how's it going?' People are very happy for me."
Daily Light readers also congratulated White in February, when he earned a publishing contract for his first novel, Crosswinds. The book is the story of a young sailor about to be deployed who is stranded in an airport and learns invaluable life lessons while talking with an older man.
White sent the manuscript to a Dallas publisher in January, fully expecting a refusal. In February, he received a call from the county judge, inviting him to lunch with U.S. Rep. Joe Barton. But instead of finding Barton in the restaurant, White found his family, staff and friends waiting to tell him that he was about to become an author.
Crosswinds will be published in ebook form on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Sony, iTunes and other ebook locations. The print form will be available at www.thenextchapterpublishing.com, as well as on Amazon.com and B&N.com.