LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Proflie: Paul White: Everyone in Oxford knows him simply as 'Paul'

LaReeca Rucker
The Oxford Eagle

If you’ve lived in Oxford for very long, chances are you’ve met Paul White.

White, 56, is known throughout the Oxford community for his ability to make friends wherever he goes. He often does this by getting a cup of tea, meeting new people, and asking them to sign their name on his cup.

White grew up in the Oxford community.

He said some of his earliest memories are the cicadas of 1963. As a 4-year-old, he would go outside, pick them up and play with them. They made whirling noises.

White is also fascinated by astronomy. He became interested in the subject after reading a book as a child in 1965. He enjoys visiting the observatory on the Ole Miss campus, where he watched the Venus eclipse. He also enjoys trips to the Planetarium in Memphis.

White also has the unusual talent of being able to tell you the exact date that celestial events will occur. For instance, he knows that the next lunar eclipse will begin on Sept. 27, and he knows that date is on a Sunday night. In fact, ask White any date, and he can likely tell you what day of the week it will fall on.

White is also an avid sports fan who attends almost every high school sports game in the city and county. Football is his favorite sport.

He enjoys riding his bicycles around Oxford. He has two in Ole Miss colors – red and blue. He also enjoys going to the Double Decker festival each year when it comes around, listening to Beatles music, visiting Square Books and the library, and playing chess.

“I played a chess champion here one time,” said White, fondly recalling the event.

White is also known for helping his friend Reed McGuire hand out Halloween candy during the holiday. Typically, more than 700 residents and trick-or-treaters have stopped by McGuire’s South Lamar home.

White has also attended a youth church camp in Alabama since 1985. This year will be his 31st year in a row to attend the camp.

White lives with his brother, Dennis White, 60.

Dennis said Paul is the youngest of his siblings. Paul lived with his father until 2006. After their father passed away, Dennis became his guardian.

“It constantly amazes me just how many people he knows,” Dennis said. “A long time ago, we had to update his ID card. I took him to the DMV, and one of the highway patrol officers said, ‘Hey Paul.’” Dennis said he was also surprised when he learned his brother knew the day of the week that almost any date fell on.

“We’d be talking about a date, and he’d say, ‘That was on a Tuesday,’” Dennis said. “I was like, ‘There is no way you could know that,’ and for the sake of clarification, I would get a calendar. It happened more than luck.”

Dennis said Paul frequently attends local sporting events.

“Paul will go to every single Oxford sporting event there is,” he said. “That’s probably where he meets a lot of people he knows.”

He also loves tea and, because many of the Oxford restaurant owners know him, his tea is often free. Because he loves astronomy, someone recently signed his cup “Cool moon dude.”

“My wife and I like for him to be as independent as he can be,” Dennis said. “We’re not going to let him do something unsafe. So far, Oxford is not really unsafe to let him go to the places he wants to go. We want him to do as much as he can on his own so that he can get the rewards from that.”

Dennis said Paul never forgets a friend’s birthday. Tell him once, and he remembers it.

He also attends the funeral of anyone he has known or met.

“If they pass away, he will go to their funeral,” Dennis said. “He doesn’t have to know them really well.”

When Paul was asked why he likes to get his tea cups signed, Dennis interjected and said, “It’s cool, right? It shows you have friends.”

And Paul has many friends in Oxford, including Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson, who speaks highly of him.

“Paul is a fixture of our community and is as good natured a soul as the Lord of ever made,” said Patterson. “Everybody in this community feels like Paul White is their first cousin. We are proud to know him.”

Dennis said because his brother has grown up in Oxford, everyone knows him, and that has made the small town a perfect place for Paul to live and flourish.

“I would say Oxford is pretty unique in that sense,” said Dennis, who added the people his brother meets probably learn from him.

“I think they learn that people are inherently good,” Dennis said. “Most people are. And Paul can see the good in everybody. He doesn’t look for anything but good.”


The Journalism Portfolio of LaReeca Rucker