Summary

Conflict Period:
Vietnam War 1
Branch:
Army 1
Birth:
02 Sep 1946 1
Death:
21 Oct 1985 1
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Personal Details

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Person:
Daniel White 1
Gender: Male 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-1431 1
Birth:
02 Sep 1946 1
Death:
21 Oct 1985 1
Cause: Unknown 1
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Vietnam War 1

Branch:
Army 1
Enlistment Date:
31 Dec 1964 1
Organization:
Army 1
Organization Code:
ARMY 1
Release Date:
16 Dec 1967 1

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Stories

For Dan White, Death Ended 2 Years of Fear and Haunted Dreams

SAN FRANCISCO — When Dan White watched his young son play soccer, he hid behind a fence and peered through a knothole so no one would spot him.

He lived much of the time in an undisclosed location in the Bay Area, and when he visited his family in the home he owned in the city's Excelsior section, he slouched when the car entered the driveway to avoid recognition by neighbors.

When he went to see a boyhood friend, he suggested they meet in a car parked on a darkened street so no one would see his face.

White was released from prison nearly two years ago, but friends said that of late he had begun to realize he could never really be free.

Torn by the pain of staying in San Francisco and the impracticality of his dreams of fleeing to Ireland, White, 39, methodically taped a garden hose to the tailpipe of his car Monday, stuck the other end through a car window, turned on the ignition and died.

In his hands, he clutched photographs of his three children and his wife.

The suicide was the final episode of a seven-year drama. On Nov. 27, 1978, White shot down Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city's first acknowledged homosexual public official, in their City Hall offices. Moscone had refused to reappoint White to the supervisorial seat White had resigned 17 days earlier, and Milk had supported that decision.

At his murder trial, White used a controversial diminished-capacity defense--claiming in part that his consumption of junk food had affected his judgment--and was convicted of manslaughter. The verdict triggered a night of rioting by outraged gays in San Francisco. White served five years of a seven-year, eight-month sentence.

Friends and acquaintances interviewed Tuesday in the aftermath of White's suicide said he was haunted less by guilt over the killings he committed than by fear of retaliation for them.

The last tortured months of White's life were filled with unrealized dreams and abortive attempts to start over again.

He spent Friday night apparently saying farewell to old friends, although none of them knew it at the time.

"The worst part of his pain was seeing what his family had to go through and were still having to go through. There didn't seem to be any end," said a close friend visited by White just two days before he took his own life. "It was going to follow him for the rest of his whole life."

During this time, even his friends kept their distance, as much for his sake as for their own, they said.

Called Unexpectedly

Longtime friend Marty Cardone said that White called unexpectedly earlier this year, wanting to talk about family, friends and the old neighborhood where they both grew up. When White arrived, he insisted that Cardone join him in his car out on the street.

"I told him I didn't want to know where he'd been, what he was doing or where he was going," Cardone said Tuesday.

Part of Cardone's concern, he said, was that he did not want to be in a position to help anyone--reporters, snoops, crackpots--with any information.

"He said he was going to take a trip," Cardone said, "and I didn't want to know where."

After about an hour in the anonymous shadows of the parked car, White bid his friend goodby. Cardone said he felt he would never see White again.

In fact, White was about to embark on a four-month trip to Ireland--a trip that began in a rush of hope and ended, apparently, in despair.

He spent four months of idyllic freedom roaming the lush Irish countryside, where no one knew his name or face.

He told a friend about becoming lost outside one Irish village and having a woman walk four miles to take him to his destination.

'What a Trauma'

"Things like that could never happen here," the friend said. "It must have been quite a change coming back. What a trauma."

Indeed, friends said that when he returned to the United States and was confronted again with the reality of his life here, White's spirits fell.

But he apparently was unable to uproot his family from San Francisco, where he and his wife had lived virtually all their lives, to move to Ireland or anywhere else.

"They couldn't just pick up and go (to Ireland). They are not wealthy people; they are working-class people," said one friend, who agreed to talk on condition she not be identified. "Working-class people just don't pick up and move to another country.

"Mary Ann (his wife of nine years) was very secure in her teaching job here. Their (retarded) son Rory was in a special school; she's got three kids to deal with. . . . There were a lot of things to think about. You don't just pick up and go. It's not just you you're affecting, you're pulling everybody (in the family) out of their lives."

Couldn't Find Steady Job

Money was another great worry, friends said. White was never able to find a steady job since his release from prison on Jan. 6, 1984, either while on one-year parole in Los Angeles or since returning to the Bay Area at the first of this year.

"He wanted to help himself financially, that was his goal," said the friend who talked with White shortly before his death. "He needed to find work and he was looking into contacts through friends. . . . I don't know what he was going to do. It was definitely going to have to be a low-key-type position; not something in the public eye."

The friend said she had no premonition what White was about to do when he dropped by for their first visit since the Moscone-Milk shootings nearly seven years earlier. She said they did not discuss that day in City Hall.

"He spoke like life was going on, like he was going in a forward direction. Friday he was fine; he was Danny," she said.

Despite White's optimism, however, she realized that he would never be able to put his crime behind him.

"He was always looking over his shoulder," she said. "I can't imagine living like that. Always having to look over your shoulder (thinking), 'Is this some sort of nut who wants to kill me?' . . . Not being able to go out and enjoy yourself. That type of thing drove him nuts."

Bio

Daniel James White was born in Long Beach, California,[2] the second of nine children. He was raised by working class parents in a Roman Catholic household in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.[1] He attended Riordan High School until he was expelled in his junior year. He went on to attend Woodrow Wilson High School,[3] where he was valedictorian of his class.

White enlisted in the United States Army in June 1965. He was a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970 and was honorably discharged in 1971.

White worked as a security guard at A. J. Dimond High School in AnchorageAlaska, in 1972. He returned to San Francisco to work as a police officer. According to a San Francisco Weekly newspaper account, citing no sources but based largely on interviews with two former political allies of White, he quit the force after reporting another officer for beating a handcuffed suspect.[1]

White then joined the San Francisco Fire Department. While on duty, according to the San Francisco Weekly story, White's rescue of a woman and her baby from a seventh-floor apartment in the Geneva Towers was covered by The San Francisco Chronicle.[1] The city's newspapers referred to him as "an all-American boy

In 1977, White was elected as a Democrat to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 8, which included several neighborhoods near the southeastern limits of San Francisco. At that time, supervisors were elected by district and not "at-large", as they had been before and then were again in the 1980s and 1990s. He had strong support from the police and firefighter unions. His district was described by The New York Times as "a largely white, middle-class section that is hostile to the growing homosexual community of San Francisco." As a supervisor, White openly saw himself as the board's "defender of the home, the family and religious life against homosexuals, pot smokers and cynics

Despite their personal differences, White and Supervisor Harvey Milk initially had several areas of political agreement and they initially worked well together.[1] Harvey Milk was one of three people from the city hall invited to the baptism of White's newborn child shortly after the election.[1] White also persuaded Dianne Feinstein, then president of the board of supervisors, to appoint Milk chairman of the Streets and Transportation Committee.[1]

The Catholic Church in April 1978 proposed a facility, to be operated by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, in White's district for juvenile offenders who had committed murder, arson, rape, and other crimes, according to the same story. The account said White was strongly opposed, while Milk supported the facility, and this difference led to a conflict between the two.[1] White held a mixed record on gay rights, both opposing the Briggs Initiative and voting against an ordinance prohibiting anti-gay housing and employment discrimination

After his disagreement with Milk over the proposed rehab center, White frequently clashed with Milk as well as other members of the board. On November 10, 1978, White resigned his seat as supervisor.[5] The reasons he cited were his dissatisfaction with what he saw as the corrupt inner-workings of San Francisco city politics, as well as the difficulty in making a living without a police officer's or firefighter's salary, jobs he could not hold legally while serving as supervisor. White had opened a baked-potato stand at Pier 39, which failed to become profitable.[6] He reversed his resignation on November 14, 1978 after his supporters lobbied him to seek appointment from George Moscone.

Moscone initially agreed to White's request, but later refused the appointment at the urging of Milk and others. On November 27, 1978, White visited San Francisco City Hall with the later-declared intention of killing not only Moscone and Milk, but also two other San Francisco politicians, California Assembly Speaker and later S.F. mayor Willie Brown, and Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, both of whom he also blamed for lobbying Moscone not to re-appoint him.[7] He arrived that day by climbing through a first-floor window on the side of City Hall carrying a .38 revolver and 10 rounds of ammunition. By entering the building through the window, White was able to avoid the recently installed metal detectors. After entering Moscone's office, White pleaded to be re-instated as supervisor, but Moscone said no. White then killed Moscone by shooting him in the shoulder and chest, and twice in the head. He then walked to the other side of City Hall to Milk's office, reloaded the gun, and fatally shot Milk five times, the final two shots fired with the gun's barrel touching Milk's skull, according to the medical examiner. White then fled City Hall, turning himself in at the San Francisco's Northern Police Station where he had been a police officer. While being interviewed by investigators, White recorded a tearful confession, stating, "I just shot him."

At the trial, White's defense team argued that his mental state at the time of the killings was one of diminished capacity due to depression. They argued, therefore, he was not capable ofpremeditating the killings, and thus was not legally guilty of first-degree murderForensic psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that White was suffering from depression and pointed to several behavioral symptoms of that depression, including the fact that White had gone from being highly health-conscious to consuming sugary foods and drinks. When the prosecution played a recording of White's confession, several jurors wept as they listened to what was described as "a man pushed beyond his endurance." Many people familiar with City Hall claimed that it was common to enter through the window to save time. A police officer friend of White claimed to reporters that several officials carried weapons at this time and speculated that White carried the extra ammunition as a habit that police officers had. The jury found White guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. Outrage within San Francisco's gay community over the resulting seven-year sentence sparked the city's White Night Riots; general disdain for the outcome of the court case led to the elimination of California's "diminished capacity" law.[8][9]

  White's headstoWhite served five years of his seven-year sentence at Soledad State Prison and was paroled on January 7, 1984. Fearing White might be murdered in retaliation for his crimes, California State Corrections Officials secretly transported him to Los Angeles, where he served a year's parole. At the expiration of that year, White sought to return to San Francisco; Mayor Dianne Feinstein issued a public announcement of his plans, and a statement formally asking White not to return. White did move back to San Francisco and attempted to rebuild his life with his wife and children, but his marriage soon ended.

On October 21, 1985, less than two years after his release from prison, White committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage by running a garden hose from the exhaust pipe to the inside of his car. White's body was discovered by his brother, Thomas, shortly before 2 pm the same day.[10]

White was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, with a traditional government-furnished headstone issued for war veterans. He was survived by his two sons (seven and four years old at the time of his death), an infant daughter, and his ex-wife

For Dan White, Death Ended 2 Years of Fear and Haunted Dreams

SAN FRANCISCO — When Dan White watched his young son play soccer, he hid behind a fence and peered through a knothole so no one would spot him.

He lived much of the time in an undisclosed location in the Bay Area, and when he visited his family in the home he owned in the city's Excelsior section, he slouched when the car entered the driveway to avoid recognition by neighbors.

When he went to see a boyhood friend, he suggested they meet in a car parked on a darkened street so no one would see his face.

White was released from prison nearly two years ago, but friends said that of late he had begun to realize he could never really be free.

Torn by the pain of staying in San Francisco and the impracticality of his dreams of fleeing to Ireland, White, 39, methodically taped a garden hose to the tailpipe of his car Monday, stuck the other end through a car window, turned on the ignition and died.

In his hands, he clutched photographs of his three children and his wife.

The suicide was the final episode of a seven-year drama. On Nov. 27, 1978, White shot down Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city's first acknowledged homosexual public official, in their City Hall offices. Moscone had refused to reappoint White to the supervisorial seat White had resigned 17 days earlier, and Milk had supported that decision.

At his murder trial, White used a controversial diminished-capacity defense--claiming in part that his consumption of junk food had affected his judgment--and was convicted of manslaughter. The verdict triggered a night of rioting by outraged gays in San Francisco. White served five years of a seven-year, eight-month sentence.

Friends and acquaintances interviewed Tuesday in the aftermath of White's suicide said he was haunted less by guilt over the killings he committed than by fear of retaliation for them.

The last tortured months of White's life were filled with unrealized dreams and abortive attempts to start over again.

He spent Friday night apparently saying farewell to old friends, although none of them knew it at the time.

"The worst part of his pain was seeing what his family had to go through and were still having to go through. There didn't seem to be any end," said a close friend visited by White just two days before he took his own life. "It was going to follow him for the rest of his whole life."

During this time, even his friends kept their distance, as much for his sake as for their own, they said.

Called Unexpectedly

Longtime friend Marty Cardone said that White called unexpectedly earlier this year, wanting to talk about family, friends and the old neighborhood where they both grew up. When White arrived, he insisted that Cardone join him in his car out on the street.

"I told him I didn't want to know where he'd been, what he was doing or where he was going," Cardone said Tuesday.

Part of Cardone's concern, he said, was that he did not want to be in a position to help anyone--reporters, snoops, crackpots--with any information.

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