Year Inducted: 1987
Schools / Organizations: (Chicago) Waller High School
Alabama State University
Biography: Although born in Alton, IL, the 5-foot-8 White was quite a basketball player in the city of Chicago. Jesse was all-City at old (Chicago) Waller High School (now Lincoln Park HS). He was a prolific scorer and averaged nearly 30 points a game with a high game of 59. Jesse White attended Alabama State College in Montgomery during the somber days of the civil rights movement. The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor of the nearby Dexter Avenue Baptist Church during White’s college days. Statistics couldn’t be found for him at Alabama State University but he was an all-Southwest Athletic Conference pick in 1957. He also earned that honor in baseball. Dr. Norman Watson, a retired ASU history professor and swimming coach vividly remembered White’s prowess on the basketball court and as a student. “Jesse came along ahead of his time,” Watson said. “Jesse, even back then, would leap into the air, spin around and shoot the ball like Michael Jordan. If you want to see Michael Jordan before his time, look at Jesse White.” Jesse graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1957 and entered the US Army where he served in the 101st Airborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment from 1957–1959. White played baseball professionally for more than 7 years in the Cubs organization as he hit .291 and got as high as Triple-A. In 1959, White founded the Jesse White Tumbling Team to serve as a positive alternative for children residing in the Chicago area. Since its inception, more than 10,700 young men and women have performed with the team, including the Illinois state basketball tournaments. Jesse was inducted into the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in June 1995 just a month after being inducted into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. In 1999, he was inducted into the Alabama State University Sports Hall of Fame. He spent 33 years as an educator in the Chicago Public Schools while also entering public office. In 1974 he was voted into the Illinois General Assembly and served 16 years. He was elected Cook County Recorder of Deeds in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. White was elected as The Secretary of State for the State of Illinois in 1998, was re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018.