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FAMU band director retires amid continuing probes

White on Champion.jpg
White speaks at a memorial held in November for drum major Robert Champion

Update 9:45 am:  University President James Ammons issued the following statement regarding Dr. Julian White's retirement:

“We wish him well in his retirement.  Given his position as department chair and director of bands, we must focus on moving forward with changes to the music department and the marching band.”

The director for the Florida A & M Marching 100 band is retiring after more than 40 years at the university. The news is the latest in the fallout from the hazing-death of one of the band’s drum majors.

University President Dr. James Ammons initially fired Dr. Julian White shortly after the hazing death of Drum Major Robert Champion. In the termination letter, Ammons cited White’s “alleged misconduct and/or incompetence” in handling hazing incidents within the band. But the university was forced reverse the move and place him on administrative leave after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement requested all actions be suspended until it completed its investigation.

“I have strongly suspected that with two investigations ongoing, the University would be a disadvantage to negotiate anything, said White's attorney Chuck Hobbs, prior to White's retirement. White through his attorney Chuck Hobbs, had been pushing to be fully reinstated at the university.

Hobbs says the battle over whether to reinstate the director had largely been about his retirement money.

“It is dollars and cents, and it’s also about process. At the time of his termination, he was also a member of United Faculty of Florida. And there were certain protocols that were not adhered to in that situation. As a tenured faculty member he had certain rights that were usurped that we believe he would have prevailed upon.”   

White’s retirement now makes those issues moot.

Robert Champion's death resurfaced a history of hazing within the band program and spurred investigations into the band's finances. A letter to the FAMU Board of Trustees by University President James Ammons says that at the time of Champion’s death 101 members of the band were either not academically eligible or not enrolled in the marching band class, which White oversaw.

During his time as band director, White kept numerous files on students he had suspended from the band for hazing. He has said he did everything in his power to stop it. But  he admitted that some of the students he suspended from the band for hazing, he also let back in.

“And sometimes, I have made an exception. I believe in the character of the student and I allow the student to come back. 98-percent of those students given a second chance,did well. A very small percentage, the second-chance didn’t help," White said in an interview he gave with news reporters in Tallahassee in December,

Thirteen people are facing hazing charges in the Champion case.  Three of them were not enrolled at the university at the time of his death. Four were Champion’s fellow drum majors. The FAMU board of trustees has scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss the band program. University system Chancellor Frank Brogan has written a letter to the university, requesting the band remain suspended.


Below is the statement from Dr. White's attorney, Chuck Hobbs:

“Dr. White remains a loyal FAMU Rattler and wishes his alma mater continued success in the future. He looks forward to spending more time with his family.”


More on Dr. Julian White, from the Law Office of Chuck Hobbs:

Dr. White has been a proud FAMU Rattler for more than half a century, first as a student member of the marching band, and later as a drum major of the world-renowned Marching 100.  A 1963 graduate, Dr. White returned to his alma mater 1973 after a successful stint as a high school band director. Dr. White was associate professor and associate director of bands from 1973-1997. Dr. Julian E. White, a tenured and Distinguished Professor of Music, who has served as Chairman of the Music Department and Director of Bands, including the wind ensemble, symphonic and concert bands, as well as the world-famous Marching 100 since 1998.

For a period of ten years, he served as drill designer for the McDonald’s All-American High School Band with appearances at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona.  His drills have been featured in performances on all major television networks, and the Bastille Day Ceremony in Paris, France.

Presently Dr. White assists with halftime shows for Bowl Games of America and is on the adjudication staff for Music Festivals USA, International Music Festivals and Heritage Music Festivals, in addition to writing drill shows for high school and college bands. He has also served as guest conductor at the Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois.  He is very active as a conductor and clinician for middle and high school bands, summer band camps, and district, state, national and international music conferences and workshops.

Dr. White leaves a legacy that includes having taught thousands of students, many of whom have become successful has produced doctors, lawyers, nurses; educators in all fields, school administrators, musicians, music teachers, and band directors on the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels themselves.

Most recently, White was recipient of the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity’s Achievement Award, which is the organization’s highest honor. At FAMU, White was a two-time the recipient of the FAMU Teacher of the Year Awards, as well as the FAMU Army ROTC Teacher of the Year Award. Just last month, he received the FAMU Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity/Kappa Delta Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. White has received the NAACP Achievement Award and is a past recipient of the Florida A&M University Superior Accomplishment Award. He also has received the FAMU Distinguished Professor/Advanced Teacher of the Year Award, the FAMU Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award; the FAMU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Thurgood Marshall Outstanding Achiever Award sponsored by the Fed Ex Orange Bowl Committee. Dr. White was honored by the Kappa Kappa Psi National Band Fraternity with the Distinguished Service to Music Award, first won by the legendary John Phillip Sousa.

Next week, White will be honored as a William N. Raines Sr. High School Legend, which will include the designation of the Julian E. White Performing Arts Wing in his honor.