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Gerald White Sr., son of Tampa icon and father of former commissioner, dies at 64

TAMPA — Gerald L. White Sr., the owner of a popular former Ybor City restaurant that bore the name of his iconic father, Moses White, died Monday. He was 64.

Mr. White, also the father of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, had been awaiting a heart transplant before his death, said his sister, Bernadine White King.

The White family is legendary in Tampa's African-American community. Moses White for decades ran his own popular barbecue restaurant, the Cozy Corner, in the heart of the city's black business district on Central Avenue, and later on Main Street.

The restaurant was a destination for performers, elected officials and working people. Moses White served as counsel to a generation of politicians and is credited with helping calm racial tensions that flared in the late 1960s. Part of Main Street is named after him.

The younger White, one of seven siblings, worked at the Cozy Corner after school and helped keep the business going after the patriarch died in 1984. It closed three years later.

Mr. White, who played defensive end at Florida A&M University, worked for some time in car sales and for more than a decade traveled the world as a bodyguard to the late singers James Brown and Marvin Gaye.

"He was my brother and my buddy," said White King. "He had a full life and lived it to the fullest."

A decade after the Cozy Corner closed, Mr. White and one of his sons decided to make another go of the restaurant business, this time in Ybor City. The name: Moses White & Sons Bar-B-Que.

The restaurant served up comfort food, from barbecue chicken to greens, staying open late to feed revelers in the party district. As with the older generation, the new restaurant was a family affair, with Mr. White's wife and children helping run it.

It closed in 2004 when Mr. White's health started to decline.

Mr. White had two children with his wife, Bridgid D. White, his college sweetheart: son Gerald White Jr. and daughter Latanya M. White, both of Tampa. Kevin White was born by another woman out of wedlock, and for many years the two were estranged.

The relationship rekindled sometime after Kevin White became first a Tampa City Council member and then county commissioner. Mr. White attended his son's sexual harassment trial in 2009.

Mr. White had his own brushes with trouble. In January 1989, he was one of four people arrested after a police dog sniffed out 11 pounds of cocaine stitched into a car seat. He was charged with racketeering and conspiracy.

After years of legal wrangling that involved a federal judge setting aside the initial conviction, Mr. White pleaded guilty in 1997 to narcotics dealing and conspiracy, court records show. He was sentenced to time served and five years of supervised release.

In addition to his wife and children, Mr. White is survived by brothers Alton White, an aide to former Tampa Mayor Bill Poe; Andre White of Atlanta; and Reginald White of Okeechobee; and sisters White King, an aide to County Commissioner Les Miller, who defeated her nephew in 2010, Sylvia White Johnson of Houston and Madelyn White of Stone Mountain, Ga.

A wake is schedule from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, and the funeral at 11 a.m. Saturday, both at Bible- Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace, 8718 N 46th St.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Gerald White Sr., son of Tampa icon and father of former commissioner, dies at 64 05/24/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 10:56pm]
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