James Wynn White of Houston, Texas, and Kenai, Alaska, passed away of Covid-19 on January 22, 2021, at the age of 90 years and one week. Two weeks before, he was an active and sharp man looking forward to returning to Alaska to continue prospecting for undiscovered oil and gas. James will be forever remembered by his loved ones, and those who knew him, as a iconic oil field wildcatter. It is hard to imagine our lives without this good man….he was generous, good natured and had a wicked sense of humor. He was genuinely charming and well liked by everyone that knew him.
James was an independent oilman, born in Rosebud, Texas, on January 15, 1931, during the Great Depression to James Henry and Wynne B. White. Called Jim by most friends, he had two sisters, Phyllis Jeanne Poe and Mary Ellen Langford. He grew up in Houston and married his first wife, Doris Lorine Jilek, at 17. At the time of his death, he was married to Linda Guzzardo, who was his loving companion for 30 years.
Lovingly, James left behind his most significant treasure trove. Six biological children, Karen Fisher, Clifton White, Laurel Jean Thompson, James A. White, Alicia Kay Smith, and Gus White. Linda's two children, Joe Guzzardo and Leah Faucett. One step-daughter, Tara, from a former marriage, 14 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren also survive him.
James White moved his family from Houston to Panama in 1962, where they lived for over a year, before moving to Pocatello, Idaho, in 1964. He worked at the J.R. Simplot plant in Idaho before moving to Kenai in 1968 to work as the maintenance supervisor for the newly built ammonia and urea plant. Soon after, he started multiple Alaska businesses repairing ships, constructing industrial facilities, and operating a machine shop. The Glennallen, Alaska machine shop worked on the Trans Alaska Pipeline. At Glennallen, he learned of the Copper River valley's oil and gas prospects.
James set out to drill his first oil and gas well, called the Alicia No. 1 in 1976. He vowed to drill unitil he either hit gas or ran out of money. Using a water well drilling rig in the winter, he reached a depth of 1,600 feet before finally plugging and abandoning this prospect in 1982. In 1985 he drilled out the plugs and re-entered an abandoned gas well near Ninilchik, Alaska. This well and field, known as the Suzanne Dionne, became a prime gas producer on the Kenai Peninsula.
In 1986 he re-entered a previously abandoned gas well near Kenai, Alaska. Up to his passing, he spent 35 years working to bring it onto production. Over the years, he had many legal battles with the state of Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Division of Natural Resources. He earned their respect by never giving up and taking his legal fights to the Alaska Supreme Court on multiple occasions. A majority of Alaska's oil and gas case laws were established based on opinions set by him. He was a fighter to the end, and his heirs will carry on his legacy.
A memorial service and placement of ashes for James will be held at Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, on February 13, 2021 at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in memory of James Wynn White to St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 4900 Jackwood, Houston, Texas 77096, or to the Kenai United Methodist Church at 607 Frontage Rd., Kenai, AK 99611.
An informal service to place some of his ashes near his two sisters will be held later this summer at the Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston, Texas.