Legend Laid to Rest
Very few people on this job are recognized as legends within their lifetime. John White was one.
John White was born on January 26, 1934. In 1951, At the age of 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he served on the destroyer U.S.S. Brown during the Korean War. He later served in the Merchant Marines and in 1957 began his career with the LAFD. He found the physical and mental challenges of the fire service a perfect fit for his personality, temperament, and competitive spirit. He worked at some of the busiest assignments in the city. While assigned to Salvage 28, he said they responded to an average of three structure fires per shift. Later in his career, while still in his mid 50’s, he was a Captain I assigned to Squad 4, which at the time responded to more structure fires than any other company in the City. His career highlights include: The Firefighter of the Year Award in 1997, the LAFD’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, and his induction into the World Police and Fire Games Hall of Fame in 2017. After nearly 45 years of service, he retired a Captain II at Fire Station 47. Although officially retired in 2002, he remained a chaplain for the fire service at large until the time of his death.
In 1949, John attended the very first Billy Graham Crusade held at Washington Boulevard and Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles. He resisted the call then, but about 24 years later, surrendered his life to Christ. His love for the fire service remained but his new passion in life was to share Jesus with others. In 1974 he met and married Jane Stewart, his wife of 42 years. In 1976 he co-founded Firefighters For Christ (FFC) and served for many years as the President of this Christian organization in the fire service. FFC began in Los Angeles, soon spread across the nation, and today has chapters around the world.
Firefighters For Christ sends Emergency Relief Teams where needed, domestic and abroad, to provide aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. They also donate fire and rescue equipment and provide training to fire departments in many developing countries. Their goal is two-fold; to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those they meet. John led teams to over 30 countries, providing either relief work or equipment and training to countries such as Russia, Saipan, Guam, the Philippines, Japan, Haiti, the U.K., Nepal; and countries within Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, South America, and throughout Central America. His calling as an evangelist was to the fire service at large.
John was well respected on the LAFD because of his competence, work ethic, and enthusiasm for the job. He worked most of his career downtown and was a renowned truckman. He was a man’s man but not ashamed to demonstrate his love toward others. He did this most often through physical touch, such as a hug, a slap on your chest, an arm around your shoulder, or a kiss on your forehead. His love was genuine and sincere. He was a man of prayer and often called upon for hospital visitations or invocations at various gatherings such as handball tournaments, the Mayo Classic, award luncheons, or retirement dinners. He was an evangelist at heart and more than anything wanted others to have a relationship with Jesus.
An estimated 1500 people attended his memorial, with some traveling from as far as New York, Northern Ireland, Germany, and Sweden. Speeches of remembrance were given by his family, a close friend, a representative of FFC, and Fire Chief Terrazas—who was once his rookie at Fire Station 64. Yes, John was a bona fide LAFD legend but he also impacted lives worldwide. He will be remembered for his genuine love for others and his passion to share Jesus Christ with all he met.
By Dan Rodriguez