Don White


Many years ago, one of the lawyers who practiced in Livingston was a fellow by the name of Edward Donnell White, whom everyone knew as Don White. He was born at Monroe, the son of Rev. and Mrs. Samuel A.J. White. He graduated from Alpine Academy and taught school several years. He received an LLB at Cumberland University and practiced law in Overton and surrounding counties for around 50 years. He once served as mayor of Livingston and president of Union Bank and Trust Company. He was married to Etta May Smith. They were parents of three children: a baby daughter, Ester E. White, who died when she was only 4 months-old, and two sons, E. Douglas White and Gladstone H. White, both of whom followed in their father’s footsteps and became lawyers. Douglas practiced law in Livingston and Gladstone practiced in Johnson City.


From the information I have been able to gather, Mr. White was quite a colorful character to say the least, and this included the type of language he used in making conversation with friends and acquaintances, as well as strangers.

His office was located on North Church Street in the building where Bruce Myers’ office is today.

Between Mr. White’s office and Speck Funeral Home, Livingston First Methodist Church once stood, and on quite frequent occasions during the summer months when the windows of the church were open, as were Mr. White’s office windows, he evidently did his best to disrupt the church services by talking in a very loud voice from inside his office, using language that was just the opposite of anything heard in a church service.

It was told that he often used Sunday mornings to straighten up his office, or to clear out bottles that had accumulated, and this too was done by making as much noise as possible during church services.

His beliefs about religion and also the existence of God did not coincide with most of the general population around Livingston who were among regular churchgoers.

In his law practice, he was noted for often representing defendants who were charged with the terrible offense of rape, and he went to great lengths in the courtroom to prove his clients’ innocence by simple but dramatic cross-examination of the alleged victim that could possibly have the jurors wondering if maybe he did have a point.

Mr. White was also known to enjoy a drink of whiskey now and then. A place he carried a bottle of whiskey was in his umbrella, a fact that most everyone who was even slightly acquainted with Mr. White knew about.

The chief of police in Livingston during the time Mr. White practiced law was Benton McMillian. Chief McMillian became very angry with Mr. White on one occasion because of the outcome of a matter in court that McMillian didn’t believe was right.

One day as Mr. White was crossing the courthouse square, Chief McMillian stopped him and asked to see what he was carrying in his umbrella. Mr. White pleaded with the police chief to not embarrass him in public, and asked that they go to Mr. White’s office. Chief McMillian agreed, but the minute the office door was closed behind the two of them, and before the contents of Mr. White’s umbrella could be discovered, Mr. White’s question to Chief McMillian was “now where’s your search warrant?” (There were other choice words used by Mr. White in this question, but we’ll just leave that part to the imaginations of the readers.)

Many do not notice the little crab orchard stone building that stands across from Overton Restaurant on Highway 52. The building was once the law library of Don White. While the building at a distance does not look big enough for a full-grown person to enter, the ceiling is about seven foot high. A small window, a tiny fireplace, and an attic are also featured in the structure.


Just across from the Overton Restaurant, a little crab orchard stone building still stands that once was the law library of Don White. Some consideration has been given recently to the preservation of this little building and to the possibility of moving it to a location nearer the square, which hopefully can be accomplished. Preservation of older homes and buildings has been very neglected in the past in the town of Livingston.

Edward Donnell White was laid to rest in Good Hope Cemetery, just on the outskirts of Livingston. His family burial plot there is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before.

From the dates given, his wife, Etta May Smith, was born April 4, 1875, and died September 5, 1935. She is buried beside their small daughter, Ester, who died in July of 1898.

Upon Ester’s monument these words are engraved: “A Memory – Ester E. White – March 1898 - July 1898. The withered flower of our love and youth.”

At the top of the very large monument the wording begins with three numbers ... “342” and just below those numbers these words are engraved: “No Mecca, Mosque or Holy Shrine where Pilgrims kneel, weep and wail, O’er Deity Dust of Saint Divine is half as sacred as where Thou Rest.”

Then underneath that verse, the last name “WHITE” in large capital letters is engraved. Next is information about Mrs. White, which reads: “Etta May Smith White, wife of E.D. White, April 4, 1875 - Sept. 5, 1935. Her body here, Her spirit amid the stars (three small stars are engraved after the word stars) Rather had we nursed thee 1000 years than look upon that vacant chair.” That is followed simply by the word “husband”.

On another side of the monument these words can be found: “The Earth, the earth’s the urn that holds our ashes safe from the storms and lightning flashes. Where earthquakes will never, never, shake us, Gabriel’s blast MAY never, never, NEVER wake us!”

Information about Mr. White then follows those words stating as follows: E.D. White, May 1869 - August 1960. Next are these three words: “Amor Nunquam Morior”. I have been told that these words and/or phrases may possibly be Buddhist. The next line contains the word “Ayuwaia” with the word “hope” right beside it. A circle is also engraved near those two words, and inside the circle reads “Eternal Recurrence”.

In addition to the extremely large monument that contains both he and his wife’s information, and their baby daughter’s, there is a monument for their son, Edward Douglas White, and that has this information: “Edward Douglas White, May 12, 1908 - April 21, 1955. Victim and Veteran of World War II Three Years in Philippines.”

There are two additional monuments contained within the plot. The one in the center of the plot reads as follows: In large capital letters the word “ZADIG” is first, which is followed by “Whence, The Starry Heavens Above, the Moral Law Within”.

The third monument has these words: “Nature Has Its Way, The Sun Rises, The Sun Sets. I was not, I have been, I am not.” Those words are followed by one single word “Nirvana”. At the very bottom of that monument is the name W.H. Boswell, Architect.

Mr. White went to great lengths to have these words memorialized with the placement and engraving of these very unusual monuments in the family plot. And it’s possible that the key to understanding the words and their meaning may rest solely with the author, which I am assuming was Edward Donnell White.

To anyone who is interested in seeing these unusual markers, I would definitely recommend a drive to Good Hope Cemetery. The monuments still today give testimony to a very unusual fellow who made his home here in Livingston, raised a family, had a law practice, and all the while was a person that I would consider as being one who marched to the beat of a different drummer.


A photograph of the entire plot shows just how unique the sight is.



The Fireplace inside the building that stands across from Overton Restaurant on Highway 52.


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