The People of the CIA … Lawrence K. “Red” White: The Father of Integrated Support
The men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency would not be able to meet their mission without the help of integrated support. In the early days, each branch of the CIA had its own support team. Today’s one large team—the Directorate of Support—provides everything from security to medical care to logistics. CIA careerist Lawrence White was a champion of the integrated support effort in its early days and became known as the Father of Integrated Support.
White was born in Tennessee on June 10, 1912. His father was a Presbyterian minister who made a modest living. From a young age, White was a hard worker and often took odd jobs to earn money.
In 1929, White graduated from Troy High School. He knew that he wanted to go to college, but his family could not afford it. With the United States Military Academy at West Point in mind, White approached Congressman Jerry Cooper to help him gain admission. But persuasive and deserving, White reported to West Point on July 1, 1929.
Serving the Country at War
After graduating in 1933, White was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army. At the outbreak of World War II, White’s regiment was sent to the Pacific, where he saw combat in New Georgia in the Solomon Islands, Bougainville in New Guinea, and the Philippines.
In 1945, White reached the rank of colonel while serving in the Philippines. He was severely wounded in combat and was sent home to recuperate.
Joining the Intelligence Community
After a full recovery, White began looking for another way to serve his country. A classmate from West Point arranged for a meeting with Gen. Edwin Wright, Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Group (CIG)—a predecessor of today’s CIA. Wright and CIG’s Director, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, were impressed by White and welcomed him to CIG.
White began work on January 9, 1947 as deputy of the Foreign Broadcast Information Branch (FBIB). By September that same year—just after the Central Intelligence Agency was formed—White became the chief of FBIB. He was known as a strict, but fair leader.
Building the Directorate of Administration
Gen. Walter Bedell Smith became Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in October 1950 and launched a reorganization of CIA. On December 1, 1950, Smith created the Directorate of Administration (DA)—the predecessor of today’s Directorate of Support—to centralize administration for the entire Agency. A year later, Smith made White assistant to the Deputy Director of Administration (DDA).
As assistant to the DDA, White developed a very close relationship with DCI Smith and his deputy Allen Dulles. When Dulles became DCI, he asked White to lead the DA. White agreed to take the position.
Together, Dulles and White would find a new site for the Agency and build its headquarters. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was against building the new compound in the District of Colombia. He thought the city was already too cluttered with new construction. Instead, White suggested they consider an old estate several miles from downtown Washington. Dulles, President Eisenhower, and Congress all approved the site of the new Agency Headquarters.
In addition to the new Headquarters compound, White’s legacy includes having helped develop legislation that established the CIA Retirement and Disability System and benefits packages, the creation of career services at the Agency, and a foundation for career training programs. White’s innovative personnel programs were held up as an example for other government agencies.
When William Raborn became DCI in 1965, he promoted White to Executive Director-Comptroller. White had a strong relationship with Raborn’s deputy Richard Helms. Helms credited White with “the conception, establishment, and direction of the complex structure which supports world-wide intelligence operations.”
White continued working as Executive Director-Comptroller until his retirement in 1972. After White’s retirement, DCI Helms requested that White establish and serve as the first president of the Central Intelligence Retiree’s Association. White passed away in April 2006.
Related Stories and Links:
- An Interview with Former CIA Executive Director Lawrence K. “Red” White
- Directorate of Support: Mission-Driven-Solutions
- A Look Back ... Allen Dulles Becomes DCI
- A Look Back … Walter Bedell Smith Becomes DCI