RICHMOND, Va. — August 7, 2012 — Hunton & Williams LLP announces with deep regret the death of its former Executive Committee Chairman, Hugh V. White Jr., who died yesterday at the age of 79.
"We remember Hugh as a special person who played a pivotal role in the growth and development of the firm, while also treating each person with great respect and kindness," said Managing Partner Wally Martinez. "The firm is saddened at this tremendous loss. Hugh will be greatly missed."
Executive Committee Chairman Emeritus Thurston R. Moore, said, "Hugh was a dear friend and colleague whose professionalism, warmth and sincerity will not be forgotten. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have worked with or known him understand what great honor he brought to his profession. The firm is and continues to be immeasurably better because of Hugh."
Mr. White, who retired from active practice in 1999, was a member of the Executive Committee for more than 20 years, serving as Vice Chairman from 1982 to 1986 and then as Chairman from 1986 to 1994. During his tenure as Executive Committee Chairman, Hunton & Williams grew from 350 lawyers to nearly 500 and became an international firm, opening offices in Brussels, Hong Kong and Warsaw, as well as Atlanta and Charlotte. Under Mr. White’s leadership, the firm also opened its Church Hill office, an innovative pro bono undertaking that has assisted thousands of low-income people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer for their legal problems.
"Hugh chaired Hunton & Williams' Executive Committee during five of the years I was the firm's managing partner," said W. Taylor Reveley III, President of The College of William & Mary and a former managing partner at Hunton & Williams. "We worked as closely together as two leaders can, often back-to-back confronting difficult situations. He was open to all views, always fair in his own judgments, willing to an extraordinary degree to put other people’s interests ahead of his own, and a bastion of integrity. He has a prominent place in the pantheon of Hunton & Williams' foremost leaders."
Mr. White was born in 1933, at the deepest point of the Great Depression, and maintained memories from growing up during those lean years and World War II, when rationing was widespread and he and his family subsisted on "a lot of butter beans and snaps and plenty of eggs." He grew up in Holland, Virginia (now Suffolk), a town with a smaller population than the entire employee count at the firm in 1986. Both Mr. White's parents were Virginia natives. His father was from Gloucester and was superintendent of the Nansemond County schools. His mother was born in Southampton County, the last of 11 children.
Mr. White entered the Virginia Military Institute, following a cousin whom he admired. He served on VMI's Honor Court and was Captain of A Company. He graduated in 1954 and accepted a job as an engineer for E. I. duPont de Nemours & Company in Parlin, New Jersey.
Mr. White next joined the United States Air Force, serving as a fighter pilot from 1955 to 1958. It was during this time that he decided to go to law school because, as he once recalled, "it occurred to me that there were broader things to do." He attended Washington and Lee University School of Law, under the G. I. Bill, graduating summa cum laude. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the Washington and Lee Law Review, earning Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honors.
He then accepted a two-year position with the Commonwealth of Virginia, serving as the Executive Director of the Virginia Legislative Study Commission, which analyzed and offered papers on the division of responsibilities between the state and the federal government.
In November 1961, he married Mary Margaret Flowers of Scarsdale, New York. The couple liked Richmond so much that following his two-year term on the Commission, Mr. White wrote to several local law firms, including Hunton, Williams, Gay, Powell & Gibson — as it was then called and when its only office was in Richmond. Mr. White joined the firm in 1963 as an associate and was admitted to the partnership in 1969.
Mr. White had extensive experience within mergers and acquisitions, helping clients with contested and negotiated acquisitions, friendly and hostile tender offers, takeover defenses, leveraged buyouts and corporate spinoffs. His clients included The Chesapeake Corporation, Owens & Minor, Pulaski Furniture Corporation, Richmond Corporation, Wheat First Securities and Bank of Virginia.
G. Gilmer Minor III, Chairman of the Board of Owens & Minor, remembers Mr. White as the "architect" of the two key events that took the company to its current status as the nation’s leading distributor of medical and surgical supplies. The first was entering a cooperative buyers' agreement with the Voluntary Hospital Association, taking Owens & Minor from a regional to a national company, and the second was listing the company on the New York Stock Exchange. "Hugh White was a fantastic lawyer," said Mr. Minor, "but more importantly, he was a wonderful and great human being, truly a gentle man. I will miss him dearly."
J. Carter Fox, the retired Chairman and CEO of The Chesapeake Corporation, recalls that Mr. White was at his best when difficult decisions had to be made. "Hugh was always there with sound advice and wise counsel," he said. "He was such a dear friend that it is hard to put into words what he meant to me personally and what he meant professionally to Chesapeake."
Mr. White served as a Director of The Chesapeake Corporation and Pulaski Furniture Corporation.
An advocate of the importance of civic service and an ardent supporter of the Richmond community, Mr. White was a faithful participant in a program that provided lawyers the opportunity to serve as reading mentors to 4th- and 5th-grade children at George Mason Elementary School. During his years with the program, Mr. White could be found at the school for several hours each week reading and developing a relationship with his students.
Mr. White was also active in many civic organizations, including the Richmond First Club (President, 1971), The Forum Club, the Virginia Commonwealth University Business School Council, the Law Council of the Washington and Lee University School of Law, Chairman and a Director of the Richmond Metropolitan YMCA, and a Trustee of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.
A member of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, he served on its vestry and as senior warden.
Mr. White served on the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Historical Society for a decade and was the Society’s Chairman for two years. "I was fortunate to have worked with an exceptional Board of Trustees, and Hugh was an especially strong Chairman," said Dr. Charles F. Bryan Jr., President Emeritus of the Society. "One of the reasons that the VHS is regarded as one of the top institutions of its kind in the country and has a solid financial underpinning is thanks in no small part to people like Hugh. He was a good man in every sense of the word."
"Hugh was a dear friend and mentor and a dedicated and loyal leader of our firm for many years," said Gordon F. Rainey Jr., who succeeded Mr. White as Chairman of Hunton & Williams' Executive Committee. "His leadership was marked always by integrity, good judgment and professionalism. His death is a loss to our firm, to the community and most of all to his loving family."
"Hugh epitomized the concept of being a total team player who always put the best interest of the firm first," said Richmond partner Thomas G. Slater Jr., former head of the firm's litigation practice and a fellow graduate of VMI. "He was always a true friend and a mentor."
"With Hugh, you were assured of a warm welcome, as well as kind and encouraging words. He was a true leader and led by his example of self-sacrifice and integrity," said F. William Brownell, current Chairman of the firm's Executive Committee.
"Law firms can be very unruly institutions," said Robert Dean Pope, a partner at Hunton & Williams and a member of the firm's history committee. "Hugh’s quiet effective leadership was critical in retaining the firm’s core values of collegiality and a sense of shared undertaking at a time of great growth, both numerically and geographically. Hugh was a wonderful listener. Always fair and open minded, he worked with endless diligence to promote decisions that were wise, principled, soundly based and reflective of the views of the entire partnership."
Mr. White is survived by his wife, Mary, and sons Hunter, William and Porter and their families.
About Hunton & Williams LLP
Hunton & Williams LLP provides legal services to corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals, as well as to a broad array of other entities. Since our establishment more than a century ago, Hunton & Williams has grown to more than 800 lawyers serving clients in 100 countries from 19 offices around the world. While our practice has a strong industry focus on energy, financial services and life sciences, the depth and breadth of our experience extends to more than 100 separate practice areas, including bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, commercial litigation, corporate transactions and securities law, intellectual property, international and government relations, regulatory law, products liability, and privacy and information management.