KILGORE — One of Kilgore College’s treasures, The East Texas Oil Museum, will bid farewell this month to a man who has been with the museum since its inception 37 years ago and who has devoted half of his life to the preservation and public education of the East Texas oil field. Joe White, the only director the museum has ever had, was recently named Director Emeritus by the KC Board of Trustees. White plans to retire, but he won’t be a stranger to the museum. He said he’ll return to the museum next week to work half-time to write a history of the museum and to continue work on fundraising. Merlyn Holmes, of Kilgore, will take over as director of the museum effective September 15, per board approval.
White, a native of Henderson, graduated from KC in 1963, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University, and studied postgraduate at Texas A&M University in Urban and Regional Studies.
He began teaching history as a graduate student at SFASU, then taught government at Blinn College in Brenham. In 1971, he moved to KC to teach history, government and economics.
White served as historical researcher for Museum Arts, Inc., in designing and building the East Texas Oil Museum from 1977-80 and was appointed in 1980 by KC President Dr. Stewart McLaurin as the museum’s director.
“Hearing that the administration had not hired a director, Lynn Welch, the museum’s job site secretary, encouraged me to apply,” White said. “I interviewed with Dr. McLaurin three times for a total of five hours, and finally he asked me if I wanted the job or not.” White said he agreed to take the job but only if he could have Welch as his secretary.
Originally funded by Placid Oil Company, owned by the “H.L.” Hunt family, White said the museum honors the Hunt family along with the many pioneers that discovered and developed the field. Today, the museum is funded through donations, grants and admission fees. White is presently undertaking his fourth annual fundraising campaign to underwrite maintenance and operation expenses.