Whether in law enforcement, military or ministry, Barry White has always been destined to serve.
In 2014, the Land O’ Lakes resident detailed his 37-plus years in public service in a self-published 218-page memoir, “Destined to Serve.”
In the book, White chronicles key moments during his work for the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Army.
“It’s really about what I think are some very interesting things that happened to me or around me when I was in law enforcement or when I was an army chaplain,” White, 67, said. “A lot of the stories — especially the ones where I was in law enforcement — are very usable in some messages to drive home a point or an illustration.”
Some tales are exciting, some comical. Some are sad and others, heartbreaking.
Most of the book’s 17 chapters focus on his military experience, most of which he described as “super rewarding.”
His duties as an army chaplain took him to places like Guantanamo Bay— “a really unique experience”— and Seoul, Korea— “a neat place.”
Yet, the most challenging portion of the book to write, he said, focused on delivering military death notifications. As an army chaplain, he was required to inform next of kin when a loved one had passed away.
He figures he delivered about a dozen — “a dozen too many”— death notifications in his 23 years as a chaplain.
“It’s the last thing in the world I want to do,” White said. “I honestly and truly would rather be involved in some sort of a (police) shootout — as long as I have protection—than to have to experience those types of emotions. Just imagine having to go tell somebody — it’s just a very difficult thing to do.”
In fact, the emotion of telling people their loved ones had passed away was the most difficult he ever experienced in his career, White said.
“I’d rather have to do law enforcement than to go back and do that again,” he said.
The most enjoyable chapters to write centered on his years in police work, and when he worked as a state wildlife officer, patrolling the Tsala Apopka Chain and the Withlacoochee River.
“The Florida Wildlife Commission was a lot of fun,” he said. “You’re outdoors all the time, and even in hot Florida, you’re out there among nature.”
White noted that being a state wildlife officer was “definitely less stressful” than his three years in the Tampa Police Department.
“We didn’t have that many problems,” he said about working as a state wildlife officer. …“Even if you catch someone doing a crime — like shining (a light) at night — usually you were on top of them before they even knew it. There’s adrenaline, but it was a good kind of adrenaline, whereas the police department, you were scared because there could be a riot, a gang or a bunch of folks who were all drunk, and you had no backup.”
He continued: “Times have changed in law enforcement, but even then, there’s moments where you’re right in the middle of something and it’s like, ‘What am I doing here?’ It wasn’t so much that I hated the (police officer) job, but there were fears there.”
White now presides over funerals at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. He also fills in as a chaplain on Holland America cruise line.
Destined to Serve can be ordered on Amazon.com.
Q&A with Barry White, author of ‘Destined to Serve’
How did you get interested in law enforcement?
“I was inspired to go into the (Tampa) police department by my brother, so I really started getting the bug. …I think by end of my three years in the police department, I was already getting a little burned out. I wasn’t as happy there as I thought I’d be. I met some very good friends, one of which was a state wildlife officer, and he helped get me excited about that.”
Did you experience a lot of negativity as a law enforcement officer, particularly working with the TPD?
“Just individual times. When you were in certain neighborhoods, there was definitely animosity. My problem was that my heart is too big. That’s one reason why I wasn’t happy. It seemed like the officers that I worked with, if they had a particularly difficult person, they’d call me. It didn’t always work, but sometimes it did because I just had a way of connecting. But, that also can cause you a lot of problems, too. Like today, it’s so hard to let your guard down.”
How different is the Tampa area today since your family moved here in the mid-to-late 1950s?
“There was nothing out here. We used to go camping where the (University of South Florida’s) Sun Dome is. It used to be a big borrow pit where they took lime rock out, and we would go camping there. That’s where we did hikes as Boy Scouts. USF had two buildings when we moved here. Even here in Land O’ Lakes, between Collier Parkway and Camp Indianhead Road, there’s now a subdivision that used to be a camp.”
Barry White bio
Barry White was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1948. He moved to Tampa in 1957 and served in the U.S. Navy from 1967-1971. He worked for the Tampa Police Department, 1974 to 1977; was a state wildlife officer from 1977 to 1979; and, was a soldier-chaplain for the U.S. Army from 1987 to 2010.
Published August 31, 2016