RALEIGH — A memorial fund administered by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation has been established to honor one of North Carolina’s most iconic outdoorsmen.
Franc White, 85, producer of the “Southern Sportsman” television show from 1972 to 1996, died June 6, at his home in Hookerton. He worked as a B-52 Mitchell bomber mechanic; served in the 91st Mechanical Cavalry Recon Squadron in World War II; and also served in World War II as a correspondent for the “Stars and Stripes” in Italy.
White is best known as an expert outdoor sportsman, writer, and conservationist. He made the “Southern Sportsman” show an institution in households throughout the South for more than 25 years. His show included one of the foremost live cooking segments on television, and he was widely known as “Julia Child of the Wild.” The show’s cooking segment and his recipe books especially appealed to his female viewers who were eager to learn how to prepare the day’s hunting and fishing prizes. His guests included famous celebrities such as Joan Fontaine and Cale Yarborough as well as local sporting enthusiasts.
Says daughter Shaun White, reflecting on her father’s natural charisma and sense of humor, “He told us he didn’t want a funeral, visitation, or memorial. Just one last canoe trip. He wanted his ashes and those of his beloved dog, Fracas, strewn in the Linville River so the trout and his favorite sporting fish, smallmouth bass, ‘can get even’.”
Although thousands have his cookbooks, tapes of his shows, and memories of “Stalking the Wily Whelk,” “Goodbye, Little Tennessee,” and the “Poor Man’s Tarpon,” few are aware of the extent of his conservation and environmental efforts. White successfully stopped commercialization on many of the Carolina islands, one of which was the last nesting ground for some Atlantic sea turtles. He uncovered and publicly denounced chemical plants freely draining millions of gallons of water from state aquifers; factories dumping pollutants resulting in the denuding of mountain tops and forests; and manufacturing plants dumping sewage and byproducts that were ruining rivers and watersheds.
His daughters Libby and Shaun remember their father constantly agonizing over the loss in just half a century of so many natural resources and the deterioration of the planet, a loss he felt his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would probably never comprehend, yet have to endure.
“From his plane, his boat, his canoe, even his cookbooks, all painted with his trademark zebra stripes, dad always reminded everyone just how deeply sportsmen care about protecting our outdoors,” Libby said. “He also knew the future of those outdoors we love will depend on our ability to raise up new voices for conservation. That’s why he ended each and every show imploring us to ‘Do yourself a favor, take a kid fishing’.”
In 1966 Franc was named “Conservation Educator of the Year” by the N.C. Wildlife Federation, an organization he long supported.
Franc and his family ask that, in lieu of flowers or cards, please join them in launching the Franc White Legacy Fund. The fund will be used to strengthen NCWF’s outreach programs that bring the voices of sportsmen and others to the conservation decision making table. Send contributions c/o N.C. Wildlife Federation at 1024 Washington St., Raleigh, N.C. 27605 or (800) 264-6293 or online at https://www.ncwf.org/support/honor.php.